Inside the Rise of the Spritz Cocktail
The Venetian cocktail has become a global phenomenon, expanding beyond its aperitif roots and into RTD cocktails, innovative flavors, and menus across the country
Ask a room full of people what makes a spritz, and the ingredients are likely to vary widely, encompassing classics like Aperol and Prosecco and avant-garde flavorings like Yuzu, herbs, and flavor-packed spirits. Yet there’s a unifying theme among spritz lovers: A spritz is a happy occasion, whether it comes in a can at home or on a cobblestone piazza in Europe.
“Romanticizing European summers is trending across consumer media, and spritz drinks are closely associated with that trend,” says Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights. “Their generally lower ABV and light, simple, refreshing ingredients make them accessible for easy making and drinking, particularly popular during warm weather.”
But the rise of the spritz is more than a consequence of vacation longing. “Spritzes play into multiple current trends,” says Chris Budzik, a senior market analyst for IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. “The generally lower alcohol content and higher-quality products align with the ‘less but better’ and daytime occasion trends. The elegant appearance—such as specific glassware, premium/fancy garnishes, and ritualized mixing steps—create a very social media-friendly experience.”
Andrea Sengara, the VP of marketing for Campari America, concurs, adding that changing consumer tastes are also driving the spritz trend. “The palate of U.S. consumers has evolved over the years to become more accepting of bitter flavors – trends like cold-brew coffee, kale, and bitter dark chocolate, have all changed how consumers perceive, taste, and enjoy bitter profiles,” she explains. “Additionally, pop culture has likely played a big role in the increase of interest in the Aperol Spritz. With the success of season two of The White Lotus, which took place in Italy and featured the Aperol Spritz, as well as the resurgence of international travel, more specifically a rise in travel to Italy, consumers recognize this cocktail as synonymous with Italian culture, and want to live, or relive this experience.”
The Spritz Market Right Now
The rise of spritzes in popular culture has led to large consumption increases for traditional spritz ingredients like Italian liqueurs and sparkling wine. In 2023 to date, Aperol overtook Bailey’s as the top-selling liqueur on the platform, boasting category share growth of 25 percent year-over-year. Campari, another common spritz ingredient, has also seen four percent share growth year-over-year. Likewise, Prosecco now accounts for 25 percent of share within the sparkling wine category on Drizly, compared to 22 percent during the same time period of 2022.
“This has become the cocktail that people want to be seen with at popular bars or restaurants, or enjoying with friends at home,” says Sengara, who notes that Campari and Aperol experienced organic double-digit sales growth in the first half of 2023.
The Emergence of the RTD Spritz
While traditional spritz drinks are built around bitter liqueurs, the spritz phenomenon has led to a rapid expansion in ready-to-drink (RTD) options that defy traditional flavors and ingredients. In 2023 to date, the number of wine-based spritz products available on Drizly has grown 50 percent compared to the same time period in 2022, while the number of spirits-based spritz offerings has grown by 27 percent over 2022 levels.
“The impetus for launching our company was the term spritz was starting to be used ubiquitously for colorful, bubbly, delicious cocktails,” says Ben Soffer, the founder of Spritz Society, a wine-based RTD spritz brand that which has won USA Today’s best canned cocktail competition twice.
Among the best-selling spritzes on Drizly, both established and new brands have made waves with consumers; brands like Chandon, Kim Crawford, and Ketel One share space with spritz-only upstarts like Ramona, Pampelonne, and Delola. Going beyond simple flavors, the most popular spritz offerings include diverse combinations like Ketel One’s Cucumber and Mint Spritz and CIROC’s Pineapple Passion flavor.
Capitalizing on the Craze
Both handcrafted and ready-to-drink spritz cocktails generally clock in around 8% ABV, offering a lower alcohol option to conscious consumers – a fact that has likely contributed to the drink’s meteoric rise in popularity. “We think the relatively lower ABV that spritzes offer, compared to other cocktails, plays a role in the growth of this trend,” says Paquette. “Especially because many consumers – especially in the younger, Gen Z audience – are becoming more conscious about their alcohol intake.“
As spritz culture shows no signs of dissipating, well-stocked retailers stand to gain by taking advantage of consumers’ willingness to experiment with both classic and contemporary twists on the cocktail.
Soffer believes merchandising decisions in store can have a big impact on the bottom line for both ready-to-serve and hand-mixed spritz cocktails. “Retailers should start to understand what customers are coming in for, and group traditional spritz products together so people can easily buy them,” he says.
Sengara suggests retailers and bartenders can encourage year-round enjoyment of these traditionally summertime beverages. “While the Aperol Spritz is typically associated with the summer months, it is made to bring people together all year round,” she says. “The tradition of après-ski, for example, is a perfect way to enjoy an Aperol Spritz during the winter as it is the perfect option to sip on when coming together with friends after a day on the slopes.”