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GQ declared the spritz “summer’s most refreshing cocktail” in 2017, and the New York Times recently assured the drink’s continued popularity by naming it the official drink of summer for 2018. It seems Denver drinkers have been listening, as the wine-based Italian aperitif is adding sparkle to menus all over town.
Most commonly made from a combination of Prosecco or Champagne, bittersweet Aperol, and a splash of soda water—that’d be an Aperol spritz—local restaurants and bars are playing with the bubbles-and-booze pairing to concoct unique takes on the classic. Here are nine versions worth trying.
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Sarto’s Social Italian Eatery in Jefferson Park serves spritzes four ways: the reliable Aperol version; a Frizzante which swaps in vodka as the base and limoncello and lime juice as a citrus component; the Campari- and vermouth-based Sbagliato (like a sparkling Negroni); and the perfect-for-summer Fiore, with Prosecco and hibiscus flower. Tip: Enjoy your pick on the quiet patio. 2900 W. 25th Ave.
Steuben’s Uptown devotes a whole section of its drink menu to spritzes. We’re intrigued by the Death Raddle, a trifecta of Meletti Aperitivo (a star anise liqueur), grapefruit-forward Underwood Riesling Radler, and soda. 523 E. 17th Ave.
In LoDo, Avelina puts a twist on its Campari- and Aperol-based Summer Spritzer with the addition of Lillet Blanc, an herbal, sweet French aperitif, and Vermentino, an Italian white wine. 1550 17th St.
Boulder’s Flagstaff House is more than 60 years old—which means it knows a thing or two about updating a classic. General manager Adam Monette’s take on the Italian tipple is the Derby Spritz, in which a blend of bourbon, house-made limoncello, mint-infused simple syrup, and Underberg bitters is topped with Champagne and served over minted ice. (FYI: “Minted ice” is a fancy term for mint springs frozen with water into pretty cubes. Try it at home!) 1138 Flagstaff Road, Boulder
Also in Boulder, the two “house wines” on the menu at PMG Wine Bar are really variations on the spritz. The white version is based around a South African vermouth called Caperitif, and rounded out with lemon and bubbles; the red is cinnamon-forward, pairing that warm spice with Campari-like Contratto Bitter, orange, and, of course, bubbles. 2018 10th St., Boulder
The best thing about Kiss & Ride’s spritz is that it’s served on draft. At the street-level bar inside RiNo’s Zeppelin Station, bartenders swirl together grapefruit-peel-infused Aperol, soda, and Blanc de Blancs (Champagne), serving the drink over ice with a misting of house-made floral tincture. Because there’s nothing wrong with serving up a little theater with your cocktail once in a while. Zeppelin Station, 3501 Wazee St., Ste. 1oo
At the much-buzzed-about Death & Co Denver bar inside the Ramble Hotel, order the Discordia. Busnel Calvados (an apple brandy), Dolin Blanc vermouth, and Leopold Bros’ sour apple liqueur are combined, transferred to a wine glass, and topped with seltzer and either a fresh apple slice or celery ribbons. The Ramble Hotel, 1280 25th St.
Stick with the classic as it was meant to be at the Art, a Hotel, where the Colorado Sun is the definition of a summer spritz: Aperol, Spanish Cava, soda water, and an orange wheel garnish. 1201 Broadway
For those not on the booze bandwagon, Punch Bowl Social delivers a satisfying nonalcoholic option with the Fancy Fizz, a blend of house-made pear syrup, lemon-ginger drinking vinegar, aloe vera juice, sparkling water, and a fresh sage topper. 65 Broadway and 3120 N. Uinta St.
On the Go: If you prefer your spritz in a portable container, swing by area liquor stores (including Molly’s Spirits, Davidson’s Liquors, and Mondo Vino) to pick up some cans of Ramona. It’s an Italian grapefruit wine spritz made from organic Sicilian grapes, a lovely and conveniently-packaged variation on the theme. The brand was founded by one-time Denverite Jordan Salcito, a sommelier whose resumé includes stints at Manhattan’s Eleven Madison Park and Momofuku. Drink it straight, in a cocktail, or over ice.