Across Italy, the golden hour between work and dinner is marked by the ritual of aperitivo, with friends catching up over an appetite-awakening drink and a few savoury snacks. When it comes to classic Italian aperitivo drinks, cocktails with prosecco dominate. Italy’s signature sparkling wine is a key ingredient in a host of spritz drinks, its effervescent bubbles making for the perfect pre-dinner lift.
Well on its way to becoming the world’s favourite sparkling wine, prosecco hails from the northern Italian region of Veneto, where it’s produced in huge quantities from the Glera grape. The best bottles hail from Valdobbiadene in northern Treviso, but you don’t need to splash out if you’re making cocktails with prosecco – any delicate nuances will be hidden by the other cocktail ingredients.
Our favourite Italian prosecco cocktails
Featuring some stone-cold classics – plus an under-the-radar riff on the Negroni – here are five of our favourite prosecco cocktails, salute!
Just like prosecco, this iconic aperitivo cocktail comes from the region of Veneto. Orange-hued Aperol was invented in the Venetian province of Padua in 1919, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that topping up the aromatic, bitter liqueur with prosecco and soda water became chic. These days, this cocktail is not only beloved in Italy, but has fans all over the world. Follow our traditional Aperol spritz recipe and spirit yourself away to the backstreet bars of Venice.
The result of a (happy) mistake by a busy bartender, the Negroni sbagliato – which means ‘mistaken’ in Italian – was first poured in Milan institution Bar Basso back in 1970. The bartender quickly realised that his unintentional swap (using prosecco instead of gin) was a good one, and the Negroni sbagliato was born. Lighter and less bitter than a traditional Negroni, the sbagliato is an ideal pre-dinner sharpener – and an excellent entry point to Italian aperitivo drinks for those who find a classic Negroni a bit strong.
Another classic Italian spritz, this time made with arguably Italy’s most popular aperitivo liqueur: Campari. Originally invented in 1860, in the northern Italian region of Piedmont, Campari is a key ingredient in a host of classic Italian cocktails, whether in a Negroni, a Milano-Torino or simply cut with soda. Campari is headier, more bitter and stronger than its more popular cousin, Aperol, so it’s the perfect choice if you like a bittersweet flavour profile (what the Italians call dolce amaro). Flame red and deeply aromatic, this prosecco cocktail is crying out to be paired with some salty snacks; whether you choose crisps, olives or a full-blown antipasti platter is up to you.
If you find bittersweet drinks a little off-putting, then this is the prosecco cocktail for you. Another classic drink from the Veneto region, this sweet and spritzy combination of peach puree and prosecco was first poured at Venice’s celebrity haunt Harry’s Bar in 1948, and has remained popular ever since. The bellini was originally conceived as a seasonal summer special, and its refreshing fruitiness is hard to beat on a hot summer’s day. It’s very much a crowd-pleaser, which makes it the ideal drink to whip up for an Italian-style picnic or dinner party.
By far and away the most recent invention on this list, the Hugo spritz has nevertheless become one of the most popular prosecco cocktails around. First invented in 2005, in the mountainous Trentino-Alto Adige region (which lies on Italy’s alpine border with Switzerland and Austria), the Hugo spritz has become the region’s signature sip. A combination of elderflower cordial, prosecco, mint and lime, the Hugo spritz is light, floral and seriously thirst-quenching, so it’s no surprise that it’s taken the world by storm since it started appearing on cocktail menus. It’s also a favourite of our Head Chef Roberta, follow along as she shows you how to make a spritz Hugo.