If the phrase “wine spritzer” conjures up images of cloyingly sweet concoctions in pastel-hued bottles, forget what you know. Yes, the Aperol spritz is great, but properly made wine spritzers deserve their time in the sun, too.
A wine spritzer is defined by its two core ingredients: wine (usually white) and sparkling water. Wine spritzers most likely originated in 19th century Austria and enjoyed a heyday in the U.S. in the 1990s. Their popularity faded, though, and quickly became the laughing stock of bar orders. “Back in the day, white wine spritzers were just so boring, and people always used the worst pinot grigio and then put club soda in it. They just weren’t done right, you know?” said Sarah Pierre, owner of 3 Parks Wine Shop in Atlanta, Georgia.
Tiffanie Barriere is a beverage consultant and wine spritzer enthusiast. “I love wine in general. So any way to make it long, which is what a spritz is, is great,” Barriere said. And wine spritzers are naturally low-ABV, making them the perfect summertime beverage.
While an expertly prepared cocktail is great, the beauty of wine spritzers is that they’re low-stress. “They’re not supposed to be these insanely well-crafted cocktails. They can be, but that’s not really the point of it,” Pierre said. “The point is to have a really refreshing drink that has been cut. You want to be able to have it at 2 in the afternoon and not want to go take a nap, you know?” You don’t even need an exact recipe ― most wine spritzers are a 3-to-1 ratio of wine to carbonated beverage (and you can add modifiers, like bitters, as you wish).
Here are three ways to cool off with a legitimately good wine spritzer this summer.
Switch up your sparkling water to something with flavor.
One way that Barriere likes to liven up her wine spritzers is to use a fruity soda in lieu of club soda. “I’m a huge fan of Mexican soda, like Jarritos,” she said. The soda comes in a variety of flavors like orange, strawberry, guava and pineapple. “Of course, my favorite is grapefruit,” Barriere said. She likes to pair the fruity soda with a snappy, dry white wine like sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio. Or, try using a flavored sparkling water like Spindrift for a fizzy drink with less sugar.
Another option is to infuse the spritzer with fresh fruit, like muddled strawberry, or a fruit-infused syrup. “You can use fresh fruit and simple syrup, or you can do fruit and herbs at the same time in a simple syrup. That just gives a little extra depth of flavor,” said Leah Hall, co-creator of the cocktail-focused Gastronom Blog. A combination she returns to often is grapefruit juice, strawberry simple syrup, prosecco and club soda.
Try it with red wine or rosé.
Red wine doesn’t have to be off limits in the heat, especially if used in a spritzer. “Lambrusco spritzers are awesome. Lambrusco is light and fizzy as it is, but you can add a grapefruit soda or club soda in there,” Pierre told HuffPost. Don’t forget a citrus garnish.
A merlot or shiraz works beautifully in a wine spritzer too, Barriere suggested. “Make sure you’re using a sparkling water or club soda that has a lot of effervescence and a lot of carbon,” Barriere explained. “You don’t want a Perrier, which is going to flatten it out.” Opt for some Topo Chico or Q club soda instead.
You can always do as they do in Spain, and whip up a Tinto de Verano, which is simply red wine and lemon-lime soda. For one serving, you need a half-cup of red wine (a young, cherry-forward Tempranillo would be perfect), half a can of lemon-lime soda, and a slice or two of lemon.
The reigning wine of summer, rosé, is also fit for wine spritzers. Rosé combines beautifully with a variety of liqueurs, said Pierre, who likes to combine the pink wine with St-Germain (an elderflower liqueur) and club soda. Hall likes to infuse vermouth or St-Germain with summer veggies like cucumber or green pepper. “Those are really vegetal, but they go well with wine, especially prosecco or rosé,” Hall said.
Try it with a fortified wine.
For a lightly sweet, slightly bitter wine spritzer, Pierre will use dry vermouth or white port as the base. “I use Niepoort white port with tonic and just lemon. It’s a little white port cocktail,” Pierre said. The drink is found throughout Portugal, typically with an orange slice garnish. You can also combine a dry white vermouth with club soda for an easy to sip aperitif.
Spritzers of this variety hearken to coastal settings, so snack appropriately if you make one. “You want to drink it when you’re near the ocean or at the lake or, ideally, on the coast of Portugal,” laughed Pierre. “But you think about little sardines or canned octopus, or just spiced nuts, because they really are refreshing. It really does wash down salty items, salty meals, like fried calamari.”
If you’re not quite comfortable freestyling your own recipe just yet, here are some ideas you can try.