An Aperol Spritz is a low-ABV cocktail to enjoy in the sunshine, or try alc-free bubblies and bitter aperitivos in this summer sipper.
By CINDA CHAVICH
The negroni is one of my favourite cocktails — boozy and bright with aromatic gin, sweet mid-notes of red vermouth and finishing bitter, with a shot of colourful Campari
In my quest to recreate a zero-alcohol version of this classic, there have been many purchases and experiments. I have tried a few soft versions of vermouth and bitter aperitifs, but I have never found the alt-gin that works to give my cocktail the backbone and flavour of a true negroni.
Enter the spritz, a refreshing summer drink that leans on prosecco with bitter Aperol or Campari and soda, poured over ice.
This week I discovered that August 1 is National Spritz Day (Aperol declared, I expect) — so I thought it would be fun to experiment with some de-alcoholized wine (like Loxton de-alcoholized sparkling brut), and some of the alcohol-free amaro-type products in my bar.
CREATING A NON-ALC SPRITZ
I started by making a lower-alcohol version of the classic Aperol Spritz, using my de-aocolized bubbly and the real Aperol aperitivo mixed with a splash of soda water, using the company’s 3:2:1 recipe for the cocktail. Nice combo, indistinguishable from the version using the usual alcoholic bubbly.
Then I branched out, substituting Undone No. 9 (labelled 'This is not red vermouth'), Giffard bitter cocktail syrup and Martini Vibrante zero-alcohol aperitif for the Aperol, to see if I could create something similar for the fully sober set.
First I tasted the various combinations neat, then added ice. Here are my tasting notes:
Bright red orange colour, sweet tangerine aromas, sweet middle palate and bitter finish
Undone No. 9, Italian Aperitif Type - Not Red Vermouth (Germany)
Amber colour, sweet grassy nose leaning to caramel, slight citrus note, light bitter finish
Giffard Concentre Bitter Syrup (France)
Deep amber-red colour, dusty, woody, herbal nose, slight sweetness on the palate and long, bitter finish
Martini Non-alcoholic Vibrante aperitif (Torino, Italia)
Deep salmon colour, citrusy nose, lighter flavours, body and bitterness, tart finish
The bottom line is this: none are exactly like an Aperol spritz, but all are pleasant quaffers, a little spritzy from the non-alc brut and soda water, and nice on a hot day in the sunshine, if lighter in both flavour and texture than the alcoholic version.
I think it's actually a great way to tame the sweetness of the de-alcoholized wines, like the affordable Loxton Sparkling Brut from Australia that's widely available in BC.
The Martini Vibrante is perhaps the closest in flavour to the traditional Aperol, though lighter in flavour overall, with less citrus punch and not as much sweetness. I actually like this combination for a zero-alc spritz. Labelled an aperitif, it’s made using a de-alcoholized wine base that’s flavoured with botanicals, including Italian bergamot and artemisia, and acidified with citric acid. The info on the label recommends mixing 1:1 with tonic, garnished with a slice of orange, but with the non-alc bubbly, it makes a nice, light spritz cocktail.
The Giffard Bitter is a bartender’s concentrated syrup (like several other flavours in the French line of bar syrups) and it's definitely bitter, with vegetal, gentian and quinine aromas, more like Campari than Aperol in both colour and flavours. As it’s a concentrate, that’s strongly bitter and also sweet, you could try using a little less in a spritz, with slightly more bubbly or sparkling water (though the recipe on the bottle recommends 30 ml syrup with 60 ml prosecco and 20 ml sparkling water, basically a 1:2 ratio).
Undone is a German product, the red “not vermouth”, Italian “aperitivo type” beverage made using water, sugar, citric acid and natural flavours, colourants and some de-alcoholized wine. Like many zero-alcohol products, it has just a two-month shelf life once opened, and my bottle had oxidized somewhat and lost much of the original reddish hue.
Another option is the Opus Aperitivo Spritz, a non-alcoholic cocktail made in Vancouver and sold in 355 ml cans. It’s made with Seville orange, grapefruit and rhubarb flavours and sweetened with stevia, for a zero alcohol, zero sugar and zero calorie quaffer, a light, premixed sober spritz that's convenient for the beach cooler.
While non-alc beverages are food products, with the required nutritional labels, alcoholic beverages are labelled with ABV (alcohol by volume) but do not come with nutritional breakdowns (or ingredient lists) so it's hard to determine exactly what you're drinking.
SUGAR AND SUCH
Generally speaking, an alcohol-based spritz — made with Aperol or Campari and prosecco — is a lower calorie and low alcohol cocktail, when compared to most mixed drinks. A classic Aperol Spritz contains 125 calories and 7 g of sugar, with 11% ABV, about the same as a white wine, rum and Coke, or Margarita. The latter are higher in sugar, though, at about 13 g for the rum and cola, and 13-30+ g of sugar in a Margarita, depending on whether it's made with fresh lime juice or a commercial mix.
An alcoholic spritz made with Campari and prosecco clocks in at 20% ABV as Campari is higher in alcohol at 24% than Aperol (at 11% ). A classic Negroni, made with 1 oz. each gin, Campari and red vermouth has 11 g of sugar (from the Campari) and 24% ABV.
But check the sugar content of the non-alcoholic aperitifs and wines, too, as they can have 5-15 g of sugar per 100 ml/3.3 oz. serving. According to medical experts, we all consume too much sugar and the safe limit is 24-36 g of sugar per day for women and men respectively.
Remember to serve your spritz in a large stemmed baloon glass, filled with ice. Make it boozy with prosecco, Aperol and soda water (3:2:1), or try some of the suggested zero-alcohol bitter vermouth and aperitifs, with de-alcoholized bubbly, for a sober summer sipper.