The Bitter Aperitif That Your Bar Needs

June 15, 2017

In celebration of their new organic Tea House Collection, we partnered with Pure Leaf Iced Tea to mix up a fruity, herbal spritz inspired by their Black Tea with a hint of Wild Blackberry and Sage.

Spritz, according to Talia Baiocchi, co-author of the recently published bar book on the subject, isn't just a cocktail. It's a way of life. It's more than the sum of its bitter and bubbly parts—it's a moment during the day to just take a minute, take a sip, and sit back. I support the spritz life, and I like it present in my home.

My love of bitter aperitifs began, unsurprisingly, when I was a college student living in Italy for several months. (Wine became a good friend, too, there.) I returned home loving Negronis, Prosecco, and vermouth, and when I had amassed a proper bar, I made them for myself, my friends, even my mom. Bitter, chinotto-tinged Campari; sweet, ruby-red Cappelletti; light-of-foot, orange-y Aperol—these bottles have paraded in and out of my kitchen for many years now.

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And, more recently, Suze—a strongly herbaceous French gentian liqueur—has been dazzling me. While the thrill of its availability in the U.S. is not as exciting anymore (its been around since the 1880s, but only first imported to America in 2012), tinkering with and blending it into other drinks at home still feels relatively new. I love its electric green color and how it kind of punches you in the mouth with flavor. This is not a bashful aperitif, but its herbal, citrus, and bitter qualities can be harnessed and complimented, made graceful. A perfect candidate for spritz-ing.

My Suze-ed up spritz calls for a muddle of blackberries and sage, topped with the aperitif, simple syrup, and lime juice. It's then shaken (or stirred, if you're scaling it up to pitcher-size for a crowd) and poured over ice in a wine glass. Topped off with Prosecco and this is as refreshing, and interesting, as it gets. I think this a wildly adaptable cocktail. I like it heavy on the Suze, but you can dial it back and pile in the simple syrup, blackberries, and Prosecco if you want it just a hint herbal (and more fruit-foward). Garnish it with sage instead of muddling it in (or do both). And then get to working Suze into your other drinks as soon as possible.

Pure Leaf Tea House Collection is a trio of organic iced teas that sport a fruit or herb companion, like organic Black Tea with a hint of Wild Blackberry and Sage. See all three flavors here.

This article originally ran in June last year, but because we could all use a drink, we're sharing this cocktail again.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Panfusine
  • Sauertea
  • Samantha Weiss Hills
    Samantha Weiss Hills
I love oysters and unfussy sandwiches.


Panfusine June 15, 2017
is Suze similar to Underberg?
Author Comment
Samantha W. June 15, 2017
I'd say it has some similar herbaceous qualities, but it's not quite as licorice-y or firey! The color is electric green/yellow and it's pretty sweet on the end, making it a great addition to cocktails or to drink with sparkling water over ice.
Sauertea June 22, 2016
I was really excited by this twist on the Spritz until I saw that it called for Suze. Unfortunately, I am not a fan of Suze. It was a great favorite of my host family in France, but I could never acquire a taste for it. Is there a possible substitute?
Author Comment
Samantha W. June 22, 2016
It's definitely a strong flavor! There are tons of Italian apertifs like the ones I mentioned: Campari, Aperol, Cappelletti, etc. Here's a good list: You may also be able to play around with digestifs, like Fernet Branca, too.

As for French apertifs, Suze is in its own category. Most others will be sweeter, like Lillet, Byrrh, Kir, Dubonnet. Would be eager to hear if you experiment!
Sauertea June 22, 2016
Thanks for the quick response! I will definitely try this with the Aperol which is one of my favorites. I will let you know how that works. Mention of Suze brings back fond memories of my French Host family and trying to politely drink Suze before Sunday lunch. It always tasted like cough medicine, despite my landlady's assurances that it was good for the digestion!
Author Comment
Samantha W. June 22, 2016
I'd be curious if the fruit and herbs translate with an aperol addition. It's possible that something like rosemary or thyme with a citrus muddled in the bottom might do better. Let me know how it goes!
Sauertea June 22, 2016
Will do. I really love both blackberry and sage so I really want to try this in some form!