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Spritz Hugo - A Refreshing Aperitivo

Hugo Spritz - refined and refreshing, since 2005

Alto Adige is Italy's most northern province - a mountainous region of verdant green foothills and sharp Dolomite peaks, it is here, nestled in a valley known as the 'Doorway to the Dolomites' that the historic city of Bolzano buzzes - a hub of thriving commerce.

As capital of South Tyrol, Bolzano has many a claim to fame - Ötzi, the Südtirol JazzFestival, Lagrein and Loacker but just north-west of Bolzano lies the small town of Naturno and here in Bar Zeno, a bartender mixed a unique 'aromatizzazione' of Prosecco which went on to become the Spritz Hugo - new contender of aperitivi in Italy, considered a version of the Italian spritz.

Lo spritz, per definizione, was named by the Austrians who added a splash of seltzer to strong, white wines they drank over the border in Italy, also known as 'spritzer'. Roland Gruber wanted to create something similar to the Venetian version made with Aperol from Padova.

In 2005, Roland mastered a beautiful elixir celebrating his people's love of wild herbs and foraged flowers in their recipes. Melissa/lemon balm (his original choice) was fashioned into a favoured homemade syrup in many Tirolean kitchens but hard to come by in large quantities. Little did Roland know the mix would hit levels of national fame - the name was soon changed from 'Otto' to 'Hugo' and the syrup to a more accessible plant - elderflower.

The Sambuco tree grows wild in Alto Adige - white sprays of delicate flowers decorate grassy valleys in May and June when traditionally the flowers are harvested to make syrup. Lemon, sugar, water, elderflowers and time are all it takes to make this simple syrup, bringing a crisp, floral flavour to the medley.

The Hugo's Flavour:

The addition of mint leaves, a wedge of lemon or lime and perhaps a slice of the region's Melinda apple turn this spritz into something quintessentially Bolzanino - refreshing and refined - the Hugo is understated elegance in a drink suited perfectly to aperitivo time - just before lunch or just before dinner.

Who knows if Roland ever invented his aperitivo as a cocktail, an aperitivo in Italy certainly never is! These are intended to be drunk socially in piazza or standing outside the bar in casual conversation before moving on to food.

Once upon a time in Alto Adige, it was tradition to aromatizzare (flavour) local wines like Malvasia or Moscato with fruits such as peach, strawberries or forest berries and Roland's Spritz Hugo was a respectful 'aromatizzazione' of Prosecco, in keeping with the tradition of his homelands. From simple beginnings and a small bar near Bolzano, he must be proud of the fame his elegant drink has attained, reaching as far and wide as New York City and London.

The recipe is easy and can be varied to your tastes, one tip though: put your ice cubes in first to cool the glass, then add the rest, that way the Prosecco keeps its sparkle for longer.

60ml Prosecco

30ml Elderflower/Melissa Syrup

60ml Soda

4 Mint leaves

Slice of Lemon


Optional: Slice of Apple

Stir and serve in a large glass with lots of conversation and warm sunshine.


The French have upped things a level, transforming the aperitif into a definitive cocktail:

Hugo Spritz St-Germain is prepared with the French elderflower liqueur and Champagne but did you know a particular mint is grown in Alto Adige just for the Hugo spritz?

Well, of course it is!

Delicate but well-defined, you can guess its name… Hugo Mint.

While you're busy spritzing, have you tasted Campari?

One of our firm faves at Aperitivo Time, we're introducing the Campari Spritz to the Midlands, one festival at a time...

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