For years I’ve heard people use both spritz and spritzer when referring to delicious, cool, refreshing drinks. Until recently I didn’t even think that there might actually be a difference between the two. The terms are so alike that they seemed rather interchangeable. But one day while doing some research for a recipe I was working on, it dawned on me that I should look both definitions up to see what was what.

It turns out that the spritz is a drink with a standard recipe. I consulted the cocktail gods (i.e. the IBA – International Bartenders Association) and sure enough, Spritz Veneziano is a bona-fide, recognized cocktail with a standard recipe. The official recipe is 6 centiliters Prosecco (about 2 fluid ounces) to 4 centiliters Aperol (about 1.33 fluid ounces) to a splash of soda water. The drink is traditionally built in an old fashioned glass on the rocks with an orange wedge. To properly prepare a spritz, the ingredients are to be added to the glass, stirred and then garnished.

Other versions of the spritz exist depending on where you are in Italy, where this delectable cocktail originated. The Venetians typically use Aperol, but other regions use either Cynar or Campari as the bitter liqueur of choice. Recipes (ratios) also vary by region. Basically, what they all have in common is wine (most often sparkling like Prosecco), bitter liqueur and sparkling water. Beyond that, imagination is the limit.

The most common spritz that you’re all probably familiar with is our good friend the Aperol spritz. Personally, I am a huge fan of this particular concoction – Aperol, Proscecco, seltzer. Really, what’s not to love? I’ve had spritzes served to me over ice or just straight up. Technically, serving over ice is the more traditional version. But I personally prefer it served straight up. It find it maintains the integrity of the drink longer.

So now you may be wondering, well, what’s a spritzer then? A spritzer is a more basic version of this drink. It’s typically just wine and seltzer water mixed together (club soda or mineral water are acceptable as well). Similar to its more “grown up” cousin the spritz, the spritzer is a sparkling drink, but it gets its bubbles exclusively from the non-alcoholic side of the drink. The spritzer is meant to be lower in alcohol content thus making it a more refreshing and thirst-quenching drink than its relative, the spritz.

Unlike the spritz, the spritzer has no official recipe. It can vary from 1:1 wine to seltzer all the way up to 2:1 wine to seltzer and back down to 2:1 seltzer to wine. It’s really all over the board, and a simple search on the web yields a wide variety of options. It’s almost dizzying. Most often, the spritzer is served in a wine glass with no ice. But again, this varies greatly by recipe.

What ties all of this together are the geographies in which these drinks are popular. Spritzers are popular in parts of Slovenia, Austria, Romania and Croatia. They are also popular in the United States and Germany where non-alcoholic versions exist as well. The non-alcoholic pre-made varieties tend to be little more than carbonated juices masking under a fancy name. “Spritzer” is basically a marketing term at this point.

Not surprising, the spritz is very popular in Italy and also here in the United States. But interestingly, this drink originated in Italy when it was part of the Austrian empire, explaining why the two are so similar in form and ingredients. The spritz is actually an evolved version of the spritzer. Leave it to the Venetians to improve upon a good idea.

When we inspect the origins of both the spritz and spritzer carefully, we see that they are cut from the same cloth. Out of the more simple wine-and-sparkling water spritzer evolved the sparkling wine-sparkling water-and-liqueur version – the spritz. Both are still very popular to this day and are widely consumed in summer months throughout Eastern Europe and the United States. Aren’t you glad that at your next cocktail party, you can explain the difference between the two? I sure am!

The Recipes:

Aperol Spritz

Aperol Spritz

  • 3 fluid ounces Aperol
  • 2 fluid ounces Prosecco
  • 1 splash soda or seltzer water
  • Orange wheel

Directions: Combine all ingredients in an old-fashioned glass filed with ice. Stir to combine. Garnish with orange wheel and serve immediately.

White Wine Spritzer

White Wine Spritzer

  • 3 fluid ounces fruity white wine
  • 3 fluid ounces soda or seltzer water

Directions: Combine both the wine and sparkling water in a large white wine glass. Stir gently to combine. Serve immediately. If desired, add a couple of ice cubes to keep the drink colder.