It’s Spritzer, it’s Spritzer time!
And we are not talking about Christmas. That is for another day. No, instead, as the good weather starts to roll in there is only one thing on most of our minds right now. While you may be forgiven for thinking that we are dreaming of the summer holidays, an August away from Vienna, or mountain lakes so refreshing you cant help but spring in and out. Those more in the know may imagine we are thinking of the approaching ’13th’ month (more on that later). But no, as the thermostat rises and the shanigartens open, Austrians, and well acclimatised expats, are thinking of just one thing; Spritzer season.
In my native Britain, one would think twice about ordering a white wine spritzer not only because of the cost of the thing, but also because it would be considered ‘unmanly’ with the lads in the pub. In Austria however, it is truly an all inclusive beverage acceptable for all and sundry, not to mention, very reasonably priced. This humble drink is so popular with the locals that there is probably evidence to suggest that the current president was elected on the back of an unofficial photo of him drinking one in a park.
There is however more to just this humble spritzer, and as you visit our city it would be remiss of us not to inform you of all the varieties of spritzer that are available. You may have heard of the spritzers ‘ski bum’ cousin, the Aperol Spritz, but trust us friends, there is a spritzers for everyone and we are here to guide you through them.
The classic: Weißer Spritzer
The classic ‘G’spritzten’ is a firm favourite as the summer rolls in. Put simply, it is 1/8th of a litre (125ml) house white wine, and 1/8th of a litre soda water, traditionally served in a spritzer glass with a handle or what can only be described as a stunted wine glass. Being Austria, this will be a local wine and the locals will happily discuss the benefits of using a good quality wine (less of a hangover) and where serves the best, until the early hours or the gardens closes. While traditionally drunk as stated, this particular guide is partial to a spritzer with two ice cubes and a slice of lemon and lime (‘Gemuse’- vegetables) and variations with cucumber et al are creeping into the trendier bars as we speak.
(Schorle-y not… in the northern half of Germany, the spritzer is called a ‘Schorle’. While everyone here will understand you, if you want to avoid patronising stares from the waiting staff, its best to stick with ‘ei spritz bitte’.)
The Summer Spritzer
For the session. Instead of being the traditional 50/50 split between wine and water, this summer equivalent is made for helping you go the distance in a long day of hiking through the wine areas north of the city. 75% soda water and only 25% (1/16th of a litre so roughly 62.5ml) keeps you hydrated through a long brunch, or Sunday session. Often served with a slice of lemon in it purely to differentiate it from its slightly stronger cousin (see above).
When ordering: ‘Ein Sommer Spritzer bitte’ (beginner). ‘Ein Spritzer bitte, aber sommerlich’ (advanced- a spritzer please, but summery)
The Sußes Spritzer
City dwellers may scoff a little at this option as one for the countryside folk, but trust when we tell you that this (and the next one) are perfect sweet start when one is a little hungover! In this sweet variation the traditional 50% soda is replaced with ‘Almdudler’. Almdudler is a favourite soft drink of the land, its nearest recognisable relative would be ginger beer, but is best described as a ‘mountain herb lemonade’, apparently…
Be wary: Some less reputable places may serve this with a Sprite or other branded lemonade, which you may like, but wont be the Austrian experience!
The Kaiser Spritzer
The Emperors’ Spritzer is your classic white wine spritzer with one of Austrias favourite cordials thrown in for those with a sweeter tooth, Elderflower cordial. Normally served with a lime wedge, because elderflower and lime is the bomb, but also so the waiter knows whats what when dishing out different spritzers on the table.
Variations: A couple of variations are to be found in some of the more hipster bars around, ranging from simple raspberry to the more fancy lavender cordials, worth keeping an eye out for.
Talking of fancy…
These next two are normally served with white wine, but many will tell you that the ‘proper’ versions are served with Sekt, Austrias answer to Prosecco, instead of the wine. If you fancy being a bit, well fancy, then do not be scared to ask for them proper.
Rumour states that this version was named after Hugo Boss, but Vienna is full of fairytales so who knows, if it is then he would have for sure drunk it with Sekt/Prosecco. Essentially this is a fancy version of the Kaiser Spritzer, spruced up with extra ‘gemuse’ in the form of lime wedges, a healthy helping of fresh mint leaves and ice cubes. This obviously requires extra space so the Hugo should come in a proper wine glass and not the wee little spritzer glasses.
Making at home: Get real fancy in the homestead by throwing in Elderflower Liquor instead of syrup, or as well as, your call.
The classic aprés ski beverage is not just available in the mountains. This Spritzer is served throughout the land, on ice, in a big wine glass with a slice of orange with between 20-40ml of Aperol liqueur in it. While the orange bitterness may be too much for some, the majority of the population love to guzzle this down by the bucket load, obviously with Sekt on special occasions as mentioned.
On your bike: The Italian alternative is called the ‘Bicicletta’, which uses Campari instead of the Aperol.
Fear not red wine fans! Spritzers are not reserved for the white wine. While the white wines might be more prominent in Austrian society there are some lovely under the radar reds, and therefore obviously some red spritzers too. Now, they may not be as common, or anywhere near as popular, but here they are.
Much like the classic white wine spritzer, this is very simply red wine and soda water served half and half. Enjoyed by a very niche section of society, it is often much maligned as a ‘country bumpkins’ drink. We are ones to judge, whatever floats your boat is ok with us. We would be remiss as tour guides if we were not to inform you of all the options…
Red wine and Coca Cola. We can’t even defend this one. Entertainingly, the German name is ‘Cola Rot’ (literally ‘cola red’) which we feel gives it a double meaning in in English that covers our feelings on the matter…
One last thing: None alcoholic Spritzers are also available. Austrians love to dilute all types of juices with soda (and tap) water. This is not only refreshing but very frugal. While Weisse spritzers may feel like you are hydrating (given that its 50% water), they go down too easy on hot days so please be sure to drink responsibly!