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How the spritz became the ‘cocktail of the moment’

Aperol Spritz has grown in popularity in recent years.
Silas Stein/picture alliance/dpa/Getty Images
Aperol Spritz has grown in popularity in recent years.

By Jordan Valinsky, CNN

New York (CNN) — Martinis and margaritas might still be people’s drink of choice, but the spritz is bubbling to the top.

A spritz, a refreshing cocktail that mixes Prosecco, club soda and a (usually Italian) liqueur like Campari or Aperol, has grown so much in popularity this year that it has entered the top 10 list of most-ordered cocktails at US bars, according to research firm CGA by NIQ.

It’s the first time the spritz has made an appearance on the list, thanks in part because it’s no longer thought of as a summer drink and it’s easy to customize.

Bartenders are experimenting so much with the spritz, swapping in different liqueurs or juices in place of Campari or Aperol, that it’s becoming the “cocktail for the moment” and expanding its appeal year-round, a recent report from bar analytics service Union said.

“By all accounts, the spritz has had a smashing year, showing strong growth across every month, peaking smack-dab in the middle of summer,” Union said.

Data shows that spritz sales started growing in sales this year a month earlier — in April — than usual. Even in January, the spritz’s slowest month, sales were “more than double” compared to the previous January.

The spritz’s colorful appeal is that it also fits in “with many other consumer trends,” CGA by NIQ regional director, Matthew Crompton, told CNN, pointing out that the cocktails are low in alcohol, easy to drink a few of in one sitting and they’re fun to show off on TikTok and Instagram.

Low and no-alcohol cocktails and mocktails have grown in popularity in recent years as drinkers look to regulate their alcohol intake. Sales of the category rose 15% last year according to a report from IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.

And there’s a Jennifer Coolidge connection, too: The spritz has seen sales rise following its constant appearances on HBO’s “The White Lotus” giving it “cultural credibility,” the Union report noted.

Campari climbs

Gruppo Campari, which also produces Aperol, revealed in a recent earnings report that US sales grew 9.1% for the first nine months of 2023, with the two Italian liqueurs continuing to be its top-selling alcohol brands.

In addition to people increasingly drinking cocktails low in alcohol, Campari executive Andrea Sengara also credited the rise in Italian culture and enjoying an “aperitivo” is why the brand has had success in the US.

“American consumers, like others globally, are becoming more aware and attracted to the aperitivo ritual, which represents taking a moment to slow down and enjoy time with friends,” Sengara told CNN. “We’ve also noticed that consumer palates have started to evolve and shift from a preference for sweet tastes to a growing appreciation for bitter flavors.”

She also credits increased advertising and sponsorships, including at the Coachella music festival in California and the US Open tennis tournament, as helping raise awareness for the Italian-owned brand.

That has bolstered sales: Shipments of Aperol to the US rose from just 9,000 cases in 2010 to 390,000 cases last year, according to data provided by the company. Campari shipped 227,000 cases in 2022, more than double its 2015 volume.

Sting wants in

Campari and Aperol are the market leaders, but that didn’t scare Amante 1530, a new Italian liqueur that has music icon Sting on its founding team, from recently launching.

The Campari group “drove a really hard and targeted marketing campaign focused on making the spritz ubiquitous,” Amante 1530 cofounder and CEO Ana Rosenstein told CNN. “This was a huge factor in our recognizing that this category, this pie, could be so much bigger.”

Compared to Campari and Aperol, Amante 1530 has lower alcohol by volume, less sugar and of a more subtle finish that is an “alternative to the consumer,” she said. The drink is currently available at select New York restaurants and retailers for $34.99 for a 700ml bottle, around the same price as Campari.

“For people who maybe weren’t sold on the currently available options, we hope we can open it up to them with a product that maybe matches their flavor profile a bit more,” she added.

Just scrolling on TikTok, Rosenstein notices different variations of a spritz (such as a Hugo spritz, made with St-Germain elderflower liqueur, or a Lillet spritz made with the wine-based liqueur) in her feed.

Despite the differences among the brands, they both would agree that spritzes aren’t going flat anytime soon.

“Everyone wants to put their own twist on a cocktail when they make it or when they lean over the bar to order it with that sultry confidence,” she said. “The spritz category is growing at a pace similar to that of the entire category and becoming more intricate in just the same way.”

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