The wine spritzer has been around for centuries, and it’s not just a beverage for soccer moms and crazy great-aunts anymore. Recipes abound, sometimes featuring trendy ingredients like Lillet or passion fruit and it’s a great way to add bubbles to your wine with just the simple addition of club soda.
With their mix of ice cold wine and bubbles, spritzers are refreshing in every sense of the word, and the ideal beverage for sultry days and occasions where drinking is frowned upon, like baby showers and christenings. Plus, you can day drink for 12 hours, and still tackle a 4-floor walk-up with ease.
Inspired by warm weather, I couldn’t resist getting a panel together to craft and taste popular spritzer recipes. After a case of wine, many failures, and some surprising boozy delights our group (composed of 2 sommeliers, 1 winemaker, and several avid drinkers) came up with some guidelines to reaching spritzer Nirvana.
Start with wine you enjoy.
The best place to pour mediocre wine is the sink, or maybe a crockpot that’s about to be ignored for 12 hours, bad wine shouldn’t ever be used as a mixer. Bitter, astringent or just plain unpleasant wine won’t get better with a splash of club soda and lime, so it’s best to start out with wine you enjoy on its own. Generally, the best varieties for spritzers are Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Grenache–all four have strong aromatic qualities, lots of fruity flavor, and very mild tannins.
If you’re whipping up a big batch of spritzers, try using boxed wine or magnums. Large format means more wine, and more chances to fix a spritzer after a heavy-handed soda pour.
Don’t take the pre-bottled shortcut. Make your own.
Spritzers have become so popular, many companies are starting to sell them pre-mixed. Avoid this option. As an example, Bon Affair, an electrolyte-infused and no-added-sugar spritzer from Southern California, caught our eye thanks to its Shark Tank fame and sexy bottle. Plus, we figured the juice had to be decent with a $15 price tag. We were wrong.
This “real wine” spritzer was watery, and left a bizarre, artificial aftertaste on our palates. Tasted blind, we couldn’t tell the difference between the brand’s Syrah spritzer and blackberry club soda.
Find a formula.
The biggest problem with Bon Affair was the watery flavor, but beware: this can happen easily with even your own recipe. The key to a satisfying spritzer is finding balance between wine, bubbles, and other ingredients, and not letting the non-alcoholic ones steal the show.
Grab a measuring cup and build your spritzer slowly. Start with wine, then any fruit or liqueurs, and finally top with the bubbles. Most spritzer recipes combine equal parts club soda or Sprite and wine, but be sure to experiment to find the right balance for you–overall, we preferred a ratio of 2/3 wine to 1/3 bubbles.
Consider it a cocktail.
The most iconic spritzers rarely include club soda, and instead combine liqueurs with sparkling wines for a complex cocktail that tastes great but isn’t as strong as a Long Island Iced Tea. The Aperol Spritz and French 75 are perfect examples–both combine sparkling wine with an aromatic, yet slightly bitter liqueur and a hint of acid for something absolutely refreshing.
Bitters, liqueurs and citrus fruit also add aromatic qualities, which are especially refreshing with mild wines like Grüner Veltliner. Our favorites were Peychaud’s Orange Bitters, St. Germain, Suze, and Aperol.
Don’t take the diet route.
With bikini-clad models gracing every billboard right now, it can be tempting to swap diet soda into spritzers for sweetness sans calories, but don’t do it. Powerful, fake sweeteners like aspartame will overwhelm the fresh, fruity nuances of a wine leaving it tasting like Diet Sierra Mist with fruit instead of a spritzer.
Mysterious chemical ingredients (Ahem, electrolytes) can also give spritzers a sour, artificial taste like Sweet Tart candies mixed with concrete, which is less than refreshing.
The best part of a spritzer party? Hydrating while you drink and thwarting the hangover headache without even trying. Bring on the bubbles.