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The rise and rise of the spritz

By Adam Bloodworth

- Last updated on GMT

On the up: the spritz continues to grow in popularity
On the up: the spritz continues to grow in popularity
The spritz drink is right on-trend and something consumers already love but there’s more to it than the familiar Aperol Spritz and operators now have a glut of recipes and inspiration to draw on should they want to create memorable beverages this summer

Operators are naturally chatty, it’s part of their job: but get them talking about spritzs and you’ll be heading for a lock-in.

The Italian-style drinks have become an integral addition to pub menus over the past few years, as consumers have grown fonder of the traditional aperitif.

Their popularity is leading a phenomenal surge in pub sales, as a couple of trends have combined to drive the consumer in the direction of the spritz.

Sales have been so strong, publicans are lining up to reveal the latest statistics. Young’s reported their most successful cocktail (for a second year running) was the Aperol Spritz, which saw an 85% boom in 2018.

According to the CGA, summer sales of Aperol have increased 52% when compared to the same period last year, and at the Avalon in Clapham, south London – part of the Three Cheers Pub Co – spritz sales have increased by 39.6% if you compare May 2018 to May 2019.

When The Morning Advertiser​ approached pubs, all came back with the same message: that the spritz is in constant demand and the trend is showing no signs of slowing.

The stratospheric rise of the drink can be accounted for when a series of trends and changes in consumer behaviour are taken into account.

Firstly, consumers are being more health conscious, so the drink’s lower ABV is attractive. Secondly, there is a broad trend for choosing alternative drinks to the classic spirits and mixer serves, and these alternative drinks also tend to be less sweet.

The spritz plays into both of these trends. It is a longer drink, meaning less alcohol is consumed over a greater period of time, while the drink is also perceived as being markedly different from the norm.

A spritz is defined as any wine-based cocktail, but the dramatic rise in popularity of the drink in the UK was initiated by the popularisation of one drink in particular: the Aperol Spritz.

The popularity of the bitter-sweet Italian aperitif has provided a platform for operators to think beyond it, by creating more interesting, less commonplace spritzes. That said, the ubiquitous Aperol Spritz is going nowhere.

“The Aperol Spritz is destined to dominate even our most humble pubs this summer,” says JJ Goodman, founder and owner of the London Cocktail Club venues.

He predicts the advancement of the trend for spritzes will move towards more natural and artisanal flavours: “I’m not talking about cheap plonk and 7up,” he says.

“There are some incredible herbal sodas and tonics in the market that pair perfectly with different wines to combine for lovely length, sweetness, dryness and bitterness.”

New tastes

Such advancements to the way we drink spritzes are already being made by botanical drinks makers Fentimans. “The popularity of the spritz is being driven by a number of factors,” says Fentimans marketing director Andrew Jackson.

“But crucially health, linked to a lower-ABV serve, along with great flavours and endless variations. All these factors appeal to younger generations who are choosing to drink alcohol in moderation but are still looking for a sophisticated drink.”

“The rise in popularity of the spritz in the UK is definitely a result of evolving British eating and drinking trends,” agrees Valentina Zampini, beverage buyer at Carluccio’s. “It offers a more complex flavour offering of sweet and bitter as opposed to something like a gin and tonic.”

According to the CGA statisticians, 63% of consumers enjoy trying new and/or different spirits brands when they drink in bars, and the lively Aperol Spritz, served in luminous orange in an elegant glass, with plenty of ice and an orange garnish, is the ultimate gateway sup for drinkers looking to venture beyond the norm.

How to pimp your spritz

Fentimans has four tips for elevating the humble spritz, to help yours stand out against competitors:

  • Firstly, get creative with your garnishes. “Nothing is off limits,” says Fentimans marketing director Andrew Jackson. “A combination of citrus, fruit and herbs together works really well to add colour and freshness to a drink.”
  • Secondly, appearance is everything so don’t compromise on glasswear, even if the purchases are only for use in summer. “Spritzes are traditionally served in white wine-style glasswear, but go for something large enough to add plenty of ice. Remember, how a glass feels in our hand can add a real sense of ‘premium’ to your drinks.”
  • Thirdly, don’t be afraid of introducing new flavours. “Mixers such as Fentimans Oriental Yuzu Tonic can add an extra dimension to the drink over a standard tonic or soda, and can make rarer ingredients more readily available.”
  • Finally, Jackson says “keep it simple” because there’s no need to complicate things with more than three, or maximum four, ingredients: a wine base, a good mixer and an impressive garnish will do the trick.

The idea of promoting alternative drinks to the norm may have been seemed risky a decade ago, but the rise of non-traditional drinks, such as craft beer and the Negroni, prove CGA’s statistics stack up.

At the beginning of this decade, bitter Negronis became the must-have accessory in cocktail bars, while ordering anything other than a hops-heavy craft beer at a pub in urban hubs like London has become almost stigmatised.

“The British drinks industry is well placed to adapt to changing consumer needs,” says Jackson from Fentimans. “Take the craft beer revolution: nobody thought you would be able to sell hop-led, flavoursome beer for a significant premium. The same is true for less sweet and dry flavours found in spritz-style drinks.”

For publicans looking to springboard from the Aperol trend into their own variation of the spritz, there is plenty to go to for inspiration.

Fentimans pink grapefruit spritz is an example of how the spritz can be elevated by publicans looking to try something new. It features a double serve of Lillet rosé wine, 125ml of Fentimans Pink Grapefruit Tonic, and a cucumber and strawberry garnish.

Summer vibes

The pink grapefruit spritz is imaginable even without seeing it. With theatrical colouring and decadent garnishing, it evokes the feel of the summer. “Warmer British summers have also played a part in the trend,” adds Jackson.

“The restaurant Polpo saw a direct correlation between consumers sitting outside and consumers ordering spritz drinks. The association with moments and experiences that the spritz conjures up in the mind of the consumer turns the purchase decision into a more emotive one rather than a transactional one.”

The reputation of the spritz as an alfresco experience to be enjoyed in the daytime to mirror how it is consumed as an aperitif in its native Italy, provides another sales opportunity.

“The aperitif can be consumed for longer and at earlier times of the day, creating new drinking occasions,” explains Jackson.

“As consumers feel more comfortable with the lower-ABV drink, bars and pubs can look to increase day-time profitability by using the spritz to reinvigorate midweek, after work and day-time drinking without having to rely on deep discounts to get consumers through the door.”

Jackson’s hunch about consumers associating the drink with summer is accurate. When looking at sales per annum, 47% of Aperol sales were made in the 16 weeks to 9 September 2018, according to CGA, while £19m of the brand’s £41m annual sales fell within that period too.

A stand-alone marketing campaign, run by Carluccio’s, capitalised on the sales figures around the spritz and the great outdoors.

“Our terraces add a third of extra covers to our estate, so it’s a very important sales driver for us over the summer,” says Valentina Zampini, beverage buyer.

To drive drinkers onto the terrace, the brand created a bespoke Italian spritz menu to pair with food to celebrate the start of summer.

“We wanted an offer that would introduce British diners to Aperol. To meet this demand – and tie a fun summer drinks campaign into our new spring-summer menu – we decided to give away a free spritz to everyone buying an antipasto dish as well as release a new spritz range,” Valentina explained.

“The new spritz range was a massive hit and the promotion helped drive the trial of our new menu. Over the month of June, we gave away 2,106 Aperol Spritzes.”

This versatility has inevitably driven sales further: the spritz is equally appropriate when served with food as it is served alone.

Thanks to high demand for the drink, consumers are now well-accustomed to the spritz, and are increasingly more open to the drink presenting itself in any number of new ways.

As well as being a joy for bar staff when it comes to creating new ways to serve the drink, constant evolution will stimulate the drinker so they never get bored of the spritz, and can always keep an eye out for the next new serve.

Sevilla orange, elderflower, orange blosssom, rose flower and grapefruit, alongside the best British sparkling wines from the stellar 2018 harvest, are some of the tastes consumers are enjoying in their pepped-up spritzes this summer.

As Valentina Zampini puts it: “2019 is definitely the summer of the spritz.”

Related topics: Spirits & Cocktails

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