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Alpine Spritz

Hugo: The Alpine Spritz
Story and photos by Tom Weber

Here's a palate-pleasing Italian aperitivo (cocktail) to wrap your hand around that's already a big hit up in the South Tyrol and a serious rival to the more popular and classic Spritz Veneziano (Venetian Spritz).

a glass of Spritz Hugo

It's called the Spritz Hugo (Spritz Ugo in Italian, pronounced OOH-goh). It's the preferred aperitivo – summer or winter – around the Dolomites. Refreshing and light, the Spritz Hugo has been high-altitude tested by respected baristas.

Germans and Austrians will no doubt disagree, but this aperitivo was created in 2005 by Italian barista Roland Gruber at the San Zeno Wine & Cocktail Bar in Naturno, where German is spoken and Italian understood.

a bottle of Prosecco sparkling wine used for making the Spritz Hugo

Gruber jump-started the craze by mixing Prosecco sparkling wine, seltzer water, fresh mint leaves and lemon syrup, and casually called his creation the Hugo/Ugo, for no apparent reason.

He later twinked the recipe, dropping the lemon syrup and adding a syrup made from the flowers of an indigenous plant that thrives all across the European Alps – Elderberry. And, the real Spritz Hugo was born and continues to stand on the top rung of the ladder of popularity around bars, chalets and other watering holes that dot the landscape.

a glass of Spritz Hugo or Alpine Spritz wih a bottle of Prosecco sparkling wine

Elderberry – Sambucus Nigra (Latin), Sambuco Nero (Italian) – is the plant from whose flowers (Elderflowers) are transformed into Sciroppo di Sambuco, a syrupy-sweet cordial that is the key ingredient to a properly prepared Spritz Hugo.

Not to be mistaken with Sambuca – the strong, licorice-flavored, clear Italian liquor with the signature three coffee beans (mosquitos) floating in the glass – Sciroppo di Sambuco is bright yellow, very sweet and comes out thick, like a syrup should.

Very little of the Elderflower syrup is needed in the Spritz Hugo, just enough to let you know that it's in there. The Hugo is approximately 4/5 Prosecco and 1/5 Elderflower Syrup, a 4-to-1 ratio between the two primary liquids.

Care to make one? Great. Let's mosey on up to the virtual bar and get our hands a bit sticky using a fresh bottle of homemade Sciroppo di Sambuco from up in the Val Pusteria area of the Dolomites.

ingredients for the Alpine Sritz

mint leaves

Step-1: Add ice cubes to the glass

Step-2: Add the Prosecco

Step-3: Add the Syrup

Step-4: Splash in the Water

Step-5: Garnish with Mint leaves and Lemon slice

Step-6: Stir gently to mix fully

a glass of Spritz Hugo or Alpine Spritz

The Dolomite-tested Spritz Hugo. It's the low-octane, high-altitude Italian aperitivo (cocktail) preferred by skiers, snowboarders, hikers and trekkers alike. One sip will have you smiling and dreaming about a winter or summer vacation up in the mountains.

Please. Drink responsibly.

Cin Cin!

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Hi Audrey,

Love your lamb shanks.

--- Paul, Scottsdale AZ

Haven't been called Tad for . . .gee, maybe I've NEVER been called Tad . . . guess I'm the only one with chutzpah enough to mention Bourdain. BRILLIANT?

--- Ken, Shutesbury, MA

I think we must have had an entirely different experience in the UK. (Fresh Food and Real Ale – week 1). We were up in Edinburgh and they served something called ‘Neeps & Tatties.’ The items were boiled so long that I couldn’t even recognize what I was eating. Come to think of it… I couldn’t taste them either. Later I found that Neeps’ are Turnips and ‘Tatties’ are potatoes.

--- Lindy, Phoenix, AZ

My mouth was watering as I read some of your descriptions of the fantastic fare of ... England? I had always felt smug about the lowly reputation of British cuisine as this gave us at least one country with a worse culinary reputation than America's. I guess I'll have to change my views. Your article made me actually want to take a CULINARY tour of Britain. Yummy yummy yummy.

--- Sandy Miner, Portland, OR

Thanks for your note. Thanks to Traveling Boy I get to interview a world famous chef this week who is widely recognized as spearheading the Yummy movement in Ireland. Guess I'll have to take yet another culinary tour a little further north and check it out... (I love my job!) --- Audrey

Very interesting, mouth-watering piece by Audrey! (A McDreamy McMeel). Your web site is fascinating!

--- Susie, Victoria, BC

Combining travel, food, and intelligent advice -- BRILLIANT! Your site fills a long-felt need for hungry roamers. Keep it up! It's Anthony Bourdain with reservations and CLASS.

--- Tad, Boston, MA


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