Amaro adds a bracing edge of mystery to the otherwise sunny spritz.
There are certain things that Italy does better than most other countries in the world. Designing fast cars, for example. And suits. But when it comes to fizzy, sweet-bitter aperitifs, no other nation even comes close.
Last autumn, I spent a week in Italy on a wine-tasting trip, and over the course of those seven magnificent days I fell head over heels in love with the greatest of all Italian aperitifs: the spritz.
On paper, the basic recipe sounds straightforward enough: prosecco, club soda, and any member of the amaro family of bitter Italian liqueurs. But the magic inherent in those amari is impossible to overstate. From Aperol to Cynar to Campari and beyond, they bring a complexity and a bracing, mouthwatering edge of mystery to these otherwise sunny concoctions, making the spritz hard to forget once you’ve experienced it. And it is finally catching on here in Philadelphia.
William Eccleston, the general manager and wine and beverage director at Ristorante Panorama (14 N. Front St., 215-922-7800), attributes the increasing popularity of spritzes not just to the amari but to the prosecco as well. “Particularly on the East Coast, prosecco has become very popular and has been something that people are really turning to, just as they do in Italy, to start a dinner,” he says. “Because it’s a little lower in alcohol, it’s easy to drink, and it also has the right combination of a splash of acidity and a splash of sweetness.” All of which turns out to be a perfect foil for the more bitter flavor profile of amari.
This summer you’ll be able to find a range of spritzes at restaurants and bars around town, including ilPittore (2025 Sansom St., 215-391-4900) and Positano Coast (212 Walnut St., 215-238-0499). The options will run the gamut from the classic (my two favorites are created with Aperol, which always reminds me of bitter orange, and with Cynar, which is made with artichoke) to the novel. And they will all start off your meal perfectly.
This newfound local appreciation for Italian-style spritzes, in fact, has helped guide the creation of the new Taste of Philadelphia cocktail list at 10 Arts (10 Avenue of the Arts, 215-523-8273). Many of its new drinks take advantage of the concept. “We’re going to integrate that into a couple of our local, organic Philadelphia liqueurs that we’re going to be using” in the spring selection, says Miguel Hernandez, assistant general manager for food and beverage. The lounge’s mixologists are even working on crafting their own vermouth. “With San Pellegrino,” he adds, “it’s unbelievable.”
So, the Make It Snappy, with soda water, homemade lemonade, and Art in the Age’s Snap? Think of it as a twist on an Italian classic—as seen through the lens of our own city. Viva Italia, indeed.