Bright, bubbly, and refreshing, few cocktails have dominated the cultural lexicon in recent years like the Spritz. Just as easy to make as they are to enjoy, Spritzes are typically made with a liqueur, Prosecco, and a splash of soda water, creating something that’s not quite wine but not quite a cocktail, either. And people can’t get enough.

According to data from CGA by NeilsonIQ, in 2023 alone, Spritz sales in the on-premise tripled year-over-year as consumers thirsted for lower alcohol, jumping eight spots to become the seventh most popular cocktail choice in the United States. (That’s more popular than the Espresso Martini, which had previously solidified itself as one of the 10 most popular cocktails in the U.S.)

Of all the Spritz variations in existence, there is arguably none as popular as the Aperol Spritz, which currently sits pretty as the eighth most popular cocktail in the world. While it may have taken a decade or so for the Aperol Spritz to take off — the Campari Group originally brought the vibrant orange liqueur to U.S. shores in 2006 — when it did, it sparked a craze. From 2010 to 2022, case sales skyrocketed from 9,000 to 390,000.

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Thanks to the success of the Aperol Spritz, consumers are growing more interested in other variations, as the drink becomes less synonymous with one brand and more with a category of cocktails. But how did we get here? We took a look back at the slow — and then stratospheric — rise of the Spritz, starting with its humble beginnings in Veneto, Italy, to its stateside domination.

1800s: The Proto-Spritz Is Born

Despite the drink’s deep associations with Italian culture, the Spritz as a category was actually created by Austrians in the Veneto region. Legend has it that Austrian soldiers in the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia — a region in northeastern Italy that was part of the Austrian Empire from 1815 to 1866 — did not have a taste for Italian wines, so they diluted them a bit with a splash of soda water to make them more palatable. The word “Spritz” comes from the German word “spritzen,” which translates to “splash” in English.

1860-1920: Bitter Liqueurs Enter the Market

While the original “Spritzes” consisted of wine and soda water, the creation of bitter liqueurs changed everything. In 1860, Campari hit Italian bars and shops and won the favor of locals who admired its bitter, herbal profile in cocktails like the Negroni and the Americano, both of which were introduced at Caffè Campari. In 1919, Aperol joined the conversation, created by brothers Luigi and Silvio Barbieri who took seven years to perfect the recipe. Just one year later, Select was introduced, which is somewhere between Campari and Aperol, with a bright red color similar to the former, but a flavor profile closer to Aperol. Once these bitter liqueurs had been formulated, it didn’t take long for people to start mixing them into their white wine Spritzers, thus creating the first versions of the Spritzes that we know and love today. While Select Aperitivo bills itself as the “Original Venetian Spritz,” Campari Spritzes and Aperol Spritzes were equally as popular, with consumers drawn to the latter in particular for its lower alcohol content (just 11 percent ABV).

1930s: Aperol Ups Its Marketing

In the 1930s, Aperol started a series of marketing campaigns, from flashy, bright orange posters flung up outside bars and restaurants to those specifically targeted to women. “Signora! Aperol keeps you thin,” one ad promised of the drink’s lower alcohol content. While this was only the first in a series of campaigns that would span the following century, it marked an important turning point for Aperol’s public favor.

1950s-1960s: The Aperol Spritz Recipe Makes Its Debut

It wasn’t until the mid-1900s that a more formal Spritz recipe was introduced. And Aperol, still controlled by the Barbieri brothers, was the brand to do it. A mix of their orange aperitif, Prosecco, and a splash of soda water thereby became known as the Aperol Spritz. During this same period, the brand ran a number of television commercials, the first of which was dubbed “Il Carosello” and featured prominent Italian stage actor Tino Buazzelli. Nicknamed “Ah, Aperol,” the commercial depicted Buazzelli as a forgetful surgeon who enjoys an Aperol Spritz during aperitivo hour as it’s a name he’ll never forget.

1980s-1990s: The Spritz Is Firmly Embedded in Italian Aperitivo Culture

By the end of the 20th century, the Spritz was a quintessential part of Italian aperitivo culture, particularly in the Veneto region, where any variation of the drink could be found in local bars and cafés. Whether served with Campari, Aperol, or Select, the Spritz was beloved for its sessionability and affordability, both of which were ideal for pre-dinner enjoyment. This version of the Spritz was served down, either in rocks glasses or even plastic cups, more akin with modern dive bar drinks than those served at swanky cocktail bars.

2003: Campari Purchases Aperol

Despite having cornered the Italian market, the true turning point for the Spritz on a global scale happened in December 2003 when the Campari Group purchased Aperol for €150 million ($160.6 million). At the time of the purchase, Aperol’s yearly sales were less than €50 million ($53.5 million), with approximately 50 percent of purchases coming from Italy, 19 percent from the remainder of Europe, and just 31 percent from the Americas. Immediately following the purchase, the Campari Group made the decision to reposition the Aperol Spritz as a luxurious cocktail enjoyed by young people and fashionable world travelers. Their first move? Swapping out the cocktail’s traditional glassware for a large wine glass. As Julka Villa, CMO of the Campari Group, told the BBC, “[the] glass gave it visibility and dignity,” which, in turn, shifted its public perception in Italy away from lower-brow osterias. It also gave the Spritz the ideal jumping off point when the time came to market the cocktail overseas.

2006: Aperol Lands in the U.S. With a Catchy New Recipe

In March 2006, the Campari Group started importing Aperol to the United States, with specific marketing geared toward American consumption of the Aperol Spritz. To convince more non-Italians to consume the cocktail, Campari swapped out the Spritz’s classic olive garnish with the now-ubiquitous orange slice. At the same time, the Campari Group started bottling Aperol with the memorable 3-2-1 recipe on the back label. Consisting of three parts Prosecco, two parts Aperol, and one part club soda, the simplicity of the 3-2-1 formula made it nearly impossible for drinkers to forget. Plus, it made for catchy slogans, like “Making the perfect Aperol Spritz is as easy as 3-2-1,” which the official Aperol website still uses to this day.

Early 2010s: Prosecco Explodes

Since the establishment of the Prosecco DOC (and DOCG) in 2009, sales of the Italian sparkling wine have continued to climb year-over-year. In the early 2000s, approximately 500 cases (around 6,000 bottles) of Prosecco were landing on U.S. shores every year and in 2010, its volume in the U.S. was less than both Champagne and Cava combined. But by 2014, the Italian sparkler was outselling Champagne — that year, U.S. consumers purchased approximately 307 million bottles of Prosecco, narrowly edging out Champagne’s 304 million bottles. Combined with the sparkling wine’s Italian heritage — thus making it perfect to mix with Italian liqueurs — Prosecco’s lower price point made it a more affordable option and cocktail-friendly, further driving its success in U.S. markets.

2015: Caffe Dante Popularizes Aperitivo Culture in NYC

First opened in 1915 as an Italian cafe in NYC’s Greenwich Village, in 2015 Caffe Dante was taken over by Linden Pride and Nathalie Hudson,  who transformed the space into a cocktail bar simply known as Dante. While the new concept honored the original — it’s still open for breakfast and coffee in the mornings, as well as lunch and dinner — aperitivo hour, a uniquely Italian concept, became a staple part of service. While Dante’s first cocktail menu included Spritz variations like the Americano and the Sbagliato, it’s no surprise that just a short time later the Aperol Spritz, one of the most popular aperitivo-hour cocktails in Italy was added, which is served on tap and remains a mainstay to this day.

Mid- to Late 2010s: Aperol’s Marketing Strategy Evolves

As Aperol gained a foothold in the United States, Campari leaned in with a series of marketing campaigns targeted toward younger consumers. In 2016, Campari launched the “It Starts With Aperol Spritz” campaign, which encouraged drinkers to start their nights with the bubbly orange drink. In 2018, Aperol had booths at a number of buzzy, social media–friendly events like New York City’s Jazz Age Lawn Party and Governors Ball. For those headed to Eastern Long Island that summer, Aperol wrapped a Hampton Jitney — which shuttles Manhattanites from the city to the shore — in vibrant orange with the slogan “So it’s orange-y and bubbly at the same time. Plus it’s super popular in Italy, so you know it’s good.” In the Hamptons, Aperol served thirsty beach-goers free Spritzes from branded portable carts that traveled around town.

On the West Coast, Aperol Spritzes were slung from branded bars at the Splash House, a pool club in Palm Springs, at Eat See Hear in Los Angeles, as well as at the KAABOO festival in Del Mar. And it wasn’t just Spritzes but plenty of merch, too. Orange sunglasses, sun fans, cups, and straws were given out for free, while branded glassware, umbrellas, and even lawn chairs found their way into bars and restaurants across the country. And it worked — between 2017 and 2018, Aperol sales climbed 48 percent.

Early 2020s: Prosecco Imports to the U.S. Surpass U.K. + Growing Interest in the No- and Low-Alcohol Movement

The early 2020s proved to be hallmark years for Prosecco, with the U.S. overtaking the United Kingdom as its largest import market for the first time in 2022. That year, 11.4 million 9-liter cases were brought into the U.S., an increase of 6.8 percent year-over-year, as reported by Shanken News Daily. And Americans bought it up: A whopping 638 million bottles of Prosecco were sold in 2022, a value surpassing $3 billion. According to a report from BevAlv Insights, the Spritz trend was one factor largely driving Prosecco’s stratospheric rise.

At the same time, the no- and low-alcohol category surpassed $11 billion in value, with the IWSR predicting that it would continue to grow at a CAGR of 3 percent from 2023 to 2027. Compared to its boozier cocktail brethren, the lower-ABV Spritz was perfectly positioned to fit right in with the trend.

2021: Aperol Launches RTD Aperol Spritz

Capitalizing on the Aperol Spritz mania gripping Americans, Aperol launched a bottled, ready-to-serve version of its iconic cocktail in July 2021. Packaged with the bittersweet liqueur and Prosecco, the cocktails arrive at 9 percent ABV and only need to be poured over ice to enjoy, bringing a new layer of simplicity to the already easy-to-make concoction.

2022: Aperol Case Sales Hit 390,000

Just like Prosecco, Aperol enjoyed a wonderful sales year in 2022, with the Campari Group reporting a mammoth 390,000 case shipments to the U.S. (Twelve years prior, the Milan-based company was only shipping 9,000 cases to American distributors.) The growth continued into the next calendar year as well, with Campari reporting a 23 percent sales increase in the first quarter of 2023.

October 2022: Emma D’Arcy Enjoys a Negroni … Sbagliato … With Prosecco in It

With the Aperol Spritz unofficially crowned King of all Spritzes, a new Spritz entered the zeitgeist in the fall of 2022 thanks to actor Emma D’Arcy. While promoting the first season of “House of the Dragon,” a prequel to the critically acclaimed “Game of Thrones” series, the actor shared that their preferred drink is a variation of the Negroni, more specifically a Negroni Sbagliato, with Prosecco in it. D’Arcy’s comment quickly went viral, and search results responded, amassing a colossal increase of 5,640 percent year-over-year, making the Negroni Sbagliato the top-trending cocktail of 2022.

2023: Aperol Launches Official Partnerships & TV Placements

The Campari Group solidified an official partnership with the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. That year, the collaboration, which was intended to “help scale the brand” included an activation dubbed the Aperol Spritz Piazza that included an orange dome for photo-ops, a pavilion for festival-goers to cool off, a trivia booth, and, of course, an abundance of Spritzes. Just a few months later, the brand announced another official partnership with the U.S. Open..

In the fall of 2023, the Aperol Spritz got another boost from a supporting role in the massively popular series “The White Lotus.” Over the course of the seven episodes in the show’s second season, the orange cocktail appeared in the hands of several of the impossibly attractive guests at the White Lotus resort in Sicily. And the partnerships and TV cameos, again, proved fruitful for Aperol sales, which swelled by 50 percent in 2023.

2024: The Spritz Hits Its Stride

Perhaps due to Aperol fatigue, consumers have started demonstrating more interest in a variety of Spritz options, and restaurants and bars are following suit. Where the Aperol Spritz may have been the only Spritz on offer five years ago, cocktail menus now tend to feature a number of options. Take Dante for example, which currently lists a Seville Spritz, a Blood Orange Spritz, Sbagliato Sicilia, and others in addition to Aperol. Some establishments, like the newly opened Good Guys on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, have even fully dedicated themselves to all things Spritzes. Social media is following a similar trend as consumers show a growing desire for new drinks, particularly the Hugo Spritz. While the St-Germain-spiked drink may not have achieved “drink of the summer” status in 2023, 2024 could be its year as Google searches for the beverage have soared since January.