Of the many customs and routines the pandemic has rendered extraneous, happy hour is not least among them. The social drinking ritual designed to prioritize “social” over “drinking,” banter over blotto, serves as an intermission between the day’s work and whatever the evening has in store, both of which are nebulous at best in our pandemic era. But like so much else these days, events and occasions are mere shadows of themselves, giving way to interpretation. If you’ll allow some poetic license, consider these steamy August days of quarantine a state of limbo, somewhere between everything familiar and everything unknown. It’s a state of flux that, like happy hour, calls for something flexible to tide you over, something like the gold standard of happy hour drinks by those who do it best — the Italians. That something is a spritz.
“Sparkling wine, amaro, soda water — it’s such an easy setup. It’s great for when you want to slow down movement of time. It’s a lower-alcohol cocktail, so you can just enjoy it without thinking about it too much,” says Ryan Lotz, beverage director at Bar Mezzana, where he’s selling spritzes to-go. “You don’t really need to measure anything, so it’s easy if you’re making it at home for a group or going to the beach or just secretly sipping on the Esplanade.”
The Aperol Spritz tends to come to mind at the mention of the drink, but as an idea, a spritz is a Mad Libs-like fabrication — able to bend to whims and preferences, infinitely customizable. If your taste runs bitter, try Campari. For a richer, sweeter flavors, go with Averna. Ryan has used local amaro from Bully Boy Distillers to great success. (The distillery, in fact, just launched a canned amaro spritz of its own.)
“You can use whatever you have on hand. There’s really not a wrong way to spritz,” he contends.
Makes 1 drink
2 ounces seltzer
¾ ounce Mathilde Peche Liqueur
½ ounce Campari
Sparkling Moscato, to top
Orange slice and mint leaves to garnish, optional
1. Pour seltzer, Mathilde Peche, and Campari into a highball glass over ice.
2. Top with Moscato
3. Garnish with mint and orange slice