The New York Times’ recent holiday cocktail spread featured a drink, The Bohemian Spritz, that they described as compellingly arboreal. I would like to imbibe something compellingly arboreal this time of year, standing next to a sprightly evergreen tree, or near a fire, or in a chalet. Sadly, the most compellingly arboreal ingredient, pine liqueur, is not the kind of thing one can pick up on an afternoon of errands around town. It is the kind of thing for which one pays a pretty penny to have sent straight from a remote mountaintop distillery in Switzerland or Austria.
Having a decidedly alpine agenda last week, one involving herbs, citrus, bitters and sparkling wine, I was not going to let obscure ingredients get in the way of success. It is said that spritzes were popularized in Italy during Austrian occupation. Interested in abiding by this Austro-Italian hybrid (and part homage to the Danube Spritz at Diner in Brooklyn, one of my favorites) I came up with the Tyrolean Spritz.
The basic formula for a spritz is simple: sparkling wine, sparkling water and some kind of bitter aperitif (but digestifs work equally well.) Most often you will find your spritz with Aperol. But the family of bitter aperitifs and digestifs is large and there is a lot of room for experimentation. I landed on Ramazzotti Amaro, which is milder and sweeter than many aperitifs. Boosted by a few dashes of orange bitters, rosemary simple syrup and some fresh orange, it is perfect drinking at the holidays: amber-hued but light on the palate, festive and sparkly with pleasant herbal and citrus undertones.
For each drink:
5 ounces sparkling wine
1 ounce sparkling water
1 ounce Ramazzotti amaro
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce rosemary simple syrup (instructions below)
3 dashes Regan’s No. 6 orange bitters
rosemary sprig for garnish
orange wedge for garnish
To make the rosemary simple syrup: Bring one cup water and one cup sugar to a low simmer. Once simmering, add 4 sprigs rosemary. Continue to simmer for a half hour. You can strain then, or leave the rosemary in the syrup overnight for a stronger flavor. Strain before use. (You can also easily scale this down by halving everything: 1/2 cup each sugar and water, 2 sprigs rosemary.)
Combine the sparkling wine, sparkling water, amaro, orange juice, simple syrup and bitters and stir gently with a spoon. Pour into a large wine glass or highball filled about halfway with ice. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary and an orange wedge. Serve immediately.