When it comes to summer cocktails, there's simply no improving on the spritz. The classic is an Aperol Spritz -- the bittersweet, ruby-red Italian liqueur along with Prosecco, club soda, and an orange slice. It's as refreshing as they come, not too high in alcohol, but still a dynamic and complex drink (the kind of dynamic and complex drink you can put back three of in a row). 

But this summer, bartenders have moved far, far beyond the classic Aperol. At Acanto in Chicago, the Italian eatery has an entire list of spritzes (some pictured above) -- the Enzo Spritz with bitter, earthy Cynar, tart cherry, and lemon, topped with sparkling red Lambrusco; the Gran Torino gets a bit boozier, with the sophisticated Gran Classico Bitter liqueur, vodka, and citrus cordial, topped with Prosecco and a castelvetrano olive; and the Alpine Spritz, with St. Germain, the bitter grapefruit spirit CH-Dogma Rubin, lemon and grapefruit, topped with Prosecco.

These three spritzes are all over the map -- but plenty of other venues are just as creative. At cocktail destination The Bennett in New York's Tribeca, the brunch menu offers a whole list of large-format cocktails, designed to be shared -- the Strawberry Letter with Aperol, rosé, and strawberry shrub; the East of Oz, with Sauvignon Blanc, lime, cucumber, and mint; and a classic Aperol Spritz, too. 

The "Where the Man-Go Spritz," created by Anna Wingfield of NYC's Mother’s Ruin, uses mango-infused Aperol and a paprika-dusted mango slice as a garnish; Tawla in San Francisco makes use of sumac, infusing the red aperitivo Cappelletti with the bright, earthy spice and pairing it with Naveran Cava.

What makes the spritz so appealing? It's a no-brainer for summer, since it's so light and bubbly. And the flavors of a spritz can go in any direction -- start with an Italian aperitivo and add a little fizz, and you've got a template you can modify with any flavors you want. Summer is in full swing, but we bet we'll see our spritz infatuation increase for a long time yet. 

[Photo: Acanto]

Written by Carey Jones

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