The Hugo Spritz is what happens when you combine classic Italian pizzazz with the ever-enchanting charm of the Alps. Here is how to make this refreshing cocktail that is as much Mediterranean as it is Alpine.
The Hugo Spritz was born in 2005 by bar maestro Roland Gruber (known locally as “AK”) in a quaint wine and cocktail bar in Naturns, South Tyrol, Italy. It’s a tantalizing blend of Prosecco sparkling wine, sparkling water and Elderflower syrup or Elderflower liqueur along with fresh mint leaves and a slice of lime or lemon. Bartenders around the world sing the praises of the Hugo Spritz as a masterpiece in mixology. After one sip, you will too. And don’t be surprised if by the second sip a full-throated “Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo!” escapes your lips.
How to Make a Hugo Spritz
The key distinguishing ingredient of the Hugo Spritz is Elderflower syrup, which comes from the Elderberry bush. The flower blooms into dainty white clusters and is found throughout the Alps from mid-May until June. They possess a honey-like scent and make a syrup as sweet as a snow-kissed mountain view.
The Elder, as it is known, is entwined with a myriad of legends and myths in the Alps. Among the folklore ebbing and flowing around the plant is a belief that sheltering under one protects against lightning strikes during a storm. This tale finds its roots in the legend that the cross upon which Christ was crucified was hewn from Elder wood, granting the plant a divine aura of safety.
It is also known as the tree of joy, a bearer of good fortune and happiness. Have an Elder close to your house, so the belief goes, and you will find yourself surrounded by benevolent spirits and free of serpents. The tree is said to also keep snakes at bay.
Hugo Spritz Recipe
Ready to concoct cocktail magic? Grab a tall wine glass (or official Aperol Spritz glass) and follow this classic Hugo recipe:
- Add 2-3 ice cubes
- Pour 1-2 ounces of Elderflower Syrup / Liqueur
- Top with 2/3 cup of chilled Prosecco
- Add a splash of sparkling water or club soda
- Garnish with a few mint leaves and a slice of lemon or lime
Gently stir the spritz and enjoy! Note: If you want your Hugo sweeter just add a bit more Elderflower syrup. If you want it naughtier, reach for more Prosecco. Also, if you do not have Prosecco handy any sparkling wine will do.
When to Enjoy a Hugo Spritz
Summer is the perfect season to sip a Hugo Spritz, or any elderflower cocktail for that matter, but don’t let the lack of warm weather stop you from savoring this South Tyrolean gem at any time of year. It’s actually quite common to see skiers and snowboarders in the Dolomites of northern Italy sipping the Hugo in between runs.
Not surprising really. We have found it to be an immediate cure for the winter blues. Something about this fragrant potion transports us to the sunny side of the Alps every time we let it wet our lips.
Many sippers enjoy a Hugo drink before dinner as an aperitivo, but it is truly excellent to sip at any hour. Yes, that includes brunch!
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How did the Spritz Become “Hugo”?
Given that the Hugo Spritz emerged amid some of the most beautiful mountains in the world, you might think the cocktail is named after an intrepid mountaineer or alpine skier. Alas, there is no legend behind the moniker. According to Roland, the name “Hugo” has no significance to the cocktail. It was just fancifully plucked out of the fresh mountain air. He apparently did consider the name “Otto”, but decided “Hugo” had a nicer ring. Good call Roland. Otto sounds like the name for a more burly cocktail born much farther to the north.
By the way, did you know the Hugo is not the only soaring libation from the Alps? A winter favorite, especially during the holidays, originating from the region is Glühwein. This soul-warming wonder is made with red wine, cinnamon, cloves, orange peels, and sugar. It can be found in Christmas markets throughout the Alps, Germany and northern Italy. Glühwein’s aroma is just as enticing as a Hugo Spritz.
And just like the Hugo, Glühwein can easily be made at home. Check out our Glühwein recipe to discover how to easily prepare a batch. After a cup, winter feels a whole lot better.