Martinis and margaritas might still be people’s drink of choice, but the spritz is bubbling to the top. This refreshing cocktail, known for its mix of Prosecco, club soda, and a typically Italian liqueur like Campari or Aperol, has skyrocketed in popularity, making its way into the top 10 list of most-ordered cocktails at US bars, according to research firm CGA by NIQ.
This marks a significant milestone for the spritz, as it’s the first time it has made an appearance on this coveted list. The reasons behind its newfound fame are manifold, with a shift in perception and versatility being key factors.
Bartenders across the country are embracing the spritz, experimenting with various liqueurs and juices in place of the traditional Campari or Aperol. This adaptability has turned the spritz into the “cocktail of the moment,” broadening its appeal beyond just the summer months, as highlighted in a recent report from bar analytics service Union.
“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 reported.
Data reveals that spritz sales started growing earlier this year, in April, compared to previous years. Even in January, traditionally the slowest month for cocktails, spritz sales were “more than double” those of the previous January. What sets the spritz apart is its colorful appeal and its alignment with contemporary consumer trends.
Matthew Crompton, regional director at CGA by NIQ, notes that spritz cocktails are low in alcohol content, making them easy to enjoy in moderation. They are also visually appealing and fun to share on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram.
The rise of low and no-alcohol cocktails and mocktails has been a broader trend in recent years, with sales in this category increasing by 15% last year, according to a report from IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.
Interestingly, the spritz’s surge in popularity is also tied to Jennifer Coolidge’s frequent appearances with the cocktail on HBO’s “The White Lotus.” This exposure has given the spritz a cultural boost, as noted in the Union report.
Campari and Aperol’s Success
Gruppo Campari, the producer of Aperol and Campari, recently reported a 9.1% growth in US sales for the first nine months of 2023. These two Italian liqueurs continue to be among their top-selling alcohol brands in the US.
Andrea Sengara, an executive at Campari, attributes this success to several factors. Firstly, the increasing popularity of cocktails with low alcohol content has been instrumental. Secondly, there’s a growing fascination with Italian culture, particularly the “aperitivo” ritual, where people gather to relax and enjoy drinks with friends.
Sengara also points out a shift in consumer preferences from sweet to bitter flavors, contributing to the rise of Aperol and Campari.
The company’s strategic advertising and sponsorships have played a significant role in raising awareness. These efforts include participation in events like the Coachella music festival in California and the US Open tennis tournament.
These initiatives have translated into increased sales. For instance, Aperol shipments to the US surged from 9,000 cases in 2010 to 390,000 cases last year. Similarly, Campari saw its shipments rise to 227,000 cases in 2022, more than double its 2015 volume.
New Player: Amante 1530
Despite Campari and Aperol’s market dominance, a new Italian liqueur, Amante 1530, recently entered the scene with a unique proposition. Co-founded by music icon Sting, this newcomer brings a different flavor profile to the table.
Ana Rosenstein, CEO of Amante 1530, acknowledges the formidable competition but sees room for innovation. Compared to Campari and Aperol, Amante 1530 boasts a lower alcohol by volume, less sugar, and a subtler finish. It aims to offer an alternative to consumers who may not have been satisfied with existing options.
Amante 1530 is currently available at select New York restaurants and retailers for $34.99 for a 700ml bottle, placing it in the same price range as Campari.
Rosenstein notes the proliferation of different spritz variations on platforms like TikTok, such as the Hugo spritz made with St-Germain elderflower liqueur or the Lillet spritz made with the wine-based liqueur. These variations showcase the adaptability and creativity within the spritz category.
The spritz cocktail has made a remarkable journey from a seasonal favorite to a year-round sensation. Its versatility, alignment with current consumer trends, and cultural exposure have propelled it to the top of the cocktail charts. While Campari and Aperol remain dominant players, newcomers like Amante 1530 are adding exciting twists to the mix, ensuring that the spritz’s popularity continues to rise.