In the world of cocktails, the spritz is like your dad's illegitimate son at a family gathering: Nobody wants to talk about him, and he's always been something of an embarrassment to the family. But the only thing standing between these drinks and their general acceptance is in their name: While you call them “spritzers,” I like to refer to them as European café cocktails.
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Bitter and bold enough to serve as both an afternoon refresher and preprandial appetite awakener, the café cocktail's other advantage is that it's not loaded with booze; it's the perfect little number to sip on mid-day without falling flat on your face. I always make certain that I have at least one or two of these little bastards on my drink menu.
1. The (Aperol, Campari, et al) Spritz The classic spritz formula goes as follows: a slug of bitter liqueur (Aperol, Campari, what have you), over ice in a tall Collins glass, topped with half sparkling wine (Prosecco, cava, cremant, you get the picture) and half sparkling water. Throw a lemon or orange twist on top, or go nuts and give it a whole wedge. It's light, it's refreshing, and it won't offend you one way or another.
2. The Bicyclette Take that classic spritz formula, but make it with a half-shot of Campari and a full shot of still white wine, and suddenly you've got yourself a Bicyclette if you're in Southern France, or a Bicicletta if you're up in Northern Italy. Top the whole shebang with soda water and you've got something less bitter, more wine-y, and less bubbly. In other words, even more grown up. If you're not wearing a beret and playing some form of lawn bowling while you drink this one, you're doing it wrong.
3. The Americano The Negroni's predecessor, I would wager that the name of this drink is something of a term of disrespect to the way Americans drink. After all, who in their right mind would dare mix Campari, Italian vermouth, and soda water on ice with a nice big wedge of orange? Only the best god-damned country in the universe, the home to John Wayne, Neil Armstrong, and Hulk Hogan. Drink this and you'll be riding a bald eagle into the sunset.
4. The Andalusian Buck Sure, this isn’t really a spritzer per se, but it is refreshing as hell and it does call for a fortified wine. A summertime favorite at Clyde Common, the Andalusian Buck is made with amontillado sherry, Tanqueray No. 10 gin, lime juice, and house-brewed ginger beer. It's a little more savory, a little more spicy, and a little more Spanish. But that's okay. Spain's cool in my book.
5. The White Wine Cooler In his seminal book on modern cocktails, The Joy of Mixology, Gary Regan said, "I can't imagine a drink more boring than this." I felt the same way until I stumbled upon Thomas Mario's White Wine Cooler in the 1971 edition of the Playboy Host and Bar Book. The potent concoction of white wine, kümmel, lemon, and brandy, finished with a cucumber peel, is a standout. It really makes you rethink the coma-inducing drink taken by fragile divorcées on diets.