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Introducing…your new favorite July 4th cocktails, including “the Spritz”

July 4th isn’t just a time for celebration. In the spirit of our forefathers and fore-broads, it’s a time for reinvention, too. So what better way to enjoy the holiday than experimenting with new cocktails?

I was back on WJLA/News Channel 8’s Let’s Talk Live last week to talk about cocktails that honor the cherry harvest season, which is right about now. Because of the rich red colors they offer, they also make festive Independence Day drinks that are also SUPER easy to serve at a party.

This Let’s Talk Live episode was probably the most fun episode I’ve done yet because I go to play with a few of my favorite cherry liqueurs: Luxardo bitter aperitivo, Luxardo Sangue Cherry Morlacco and Luxardo maraschino liqueur. These products are macerated and distilled to the highest quality (there are tons of crappy liqueurs out there. If you want to learn how to avoid them read this piece on The Daily Beast).

Back in March I had to the chance to visit Padua and Venice in northern Italy, and also to tour the Luxardo distillery, drink with the Luxardo family and meet a lot of other amazingly cool writers (like Emily Arden Wells, a.k.a. Gastronomista, Rachel Friedman who wrote The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost, photographer and writer Caroline Padilla, a.k.a. Caroline on Crack, and others). Chatting with like-minded women over cocktails and loads of pasta and seafood on the rooftop of Venice’s Hotel Danieli was a highlight of my year thus far.

A dish at the Hotel Danieli in Venice, Italy

A dish at the Hotel Danieli in Venice, Italy

It was here that I learned about the Spritz, and the drink that tops my list of cherry themed cocktails for July 4th. Every day in the late afternoon, there are tons of  people out in the Italians piazzas, all drinking an aperitivo, or a pre-dinner drink meant to stimulate the appetite for dinner. The aperitivo of choice is either white wine or a Spritz.

Having Spritzes in a Padua piazza

Having Spritzes in a Padua piazza

Gondoleers preparing their boats in Venice

Gondoleers preparing their boats in Venice

You can make a Spritz several ways, and in Italy it varies slightly based on where you live. But the classic recipe is layering Prosecco or sparkling wine, an Italian bitter liqueur and club soda. The result is an ultra refreshing, slightly bitter and effervescent cocktail anyone can appreciate. I’m really not sure why this trend hasn’t caught on in the U.S., because it’s an amazing tradition. I, for one, have been hosting Spritz parties on my porch for the last two months.

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A Spritz at Caffe Pedrocchi in the heart of Padua, Italy

Here are some tips for getting the Spritz just right:

1. Start with standard white wine glasses or rocks glasses. This is how most Italians do it. You’ll want to use larger ice cubes and never crushed ice or it will dilute VERY fast.

2. Then add about three parts chilled, dry Prosecco or sparkling wine to impart acidity and effervescence, which whet the appetite and cleanse the palate while snacking with your Spritz. I brought Ca’Momi Winery’s Ca’Secco on the show with me. It is a fabulously fruity but dry Napa Valley bubbly at an affordable price point.

3. Put in about two parts of your bitter Italian liqueur. Since it’s cherry harvest season right now, I’m using the Luxardo aperitivo, which is a fun way to preserve the season’s cherry bounty all year long because it is made when the cherries are at peak ripeness. You can also use Aperol or Campari as your bitter liqueur. 

3. Top the drink with a little club soda, such as Fever-Tree, and give it a light stir.

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Spritzes at the Hotel Danieli in Venice Photo courtesy of Luxardo

Luxardo Aperitivo Spritz

A classic Spritz photo courtesy of Luxardo

A couple more cherry cocktails worth experimenting at home this holiday:

Make the Luxardo Maraschino & Tonic 

You can add gin to this drink to ratchet up the alcohol a notch, but on its own this drink is like a soda, and a perfect balance of bitter and sweet.

1 1/2 ounces Luxardo maraschino liqueur

1/2 ounce lemon juice

4 ounces high quality tonic, such as Fever-Tree

Add the Luxardo and lemon juice to a glass with ice. Top with the tonic water and stir. Add a few brandied cherries if desired for garnish.

Make a Cherry Sparkler 

Move over, Bellini! This drink uses a tart cherry liqueur with sparkling wine or champagne.

4 ounces sparkling wine or Prosecco

1 ounce cherry liqueur, such as Luxardo Sangue Cherry Morlacco

Add the liqueur to a champagne flute or coupe, and top with the bubbly. Add a few blueberries for garnish in the glass for a true red, white and blue theme!

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