The crowd-pleasing Spritz cocktail is now a common sight on bar and restaurant cocktail menus around the country. The classic version — Prosecco and Aperol with a splash of soda water — is bittersweet, bubbly, and crisp. The wine-based cocktail has infinite variations, with operators swapping in liqueurs and juices to create signature riffs. In any variation it’s a cocktail for the moment: Unfussy and undeniably Instagram-ready.
It has even achieved on-screen fame: The classic, orange-hued Spritz got a boost of cultural credibility earlier this year, when it was featured heavily in Sicily-focused Season 2 of the HBO hit The White Lotus.
By all accounts, the Spritz has had a smashing year, showing strong growth across every month, peaking smack-dab in the middle of summer. And sales of the drink are growing significantly beyond seasonal boundaries.
In fact, Union data indicates that the key summer Spritz selling season started its upward trajectory about one month earlier this year, with 85 percent growth in April 2023 compared to April 2022. Likewise, the winter months saw some of the most significant growth year-over-year. January, the slowest month of the year for Spritz sales, saw sales more than double this year compared to January 2021.
Whether it’s the classic Aperol Spritz or a variation within the broader Spritz category, this cocktail is surging — with no signs of slowing.
Every Season is Spritz Season
At Union, Spritzes made up 2.2 percent of all cocktail sales at high-volume bars and restaurants in the 12-month period ending August 31, 2023. That’s up from 1.6 percent share the previous period, representing a 48.3 percentage growth rate, with regional sales strongest in Northeastern U.S. states including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
Source: OnPrem Insights, September 1, 2022 to August 31, 2023 compared to prior year.
“The Spritz is a lighter-style cocktail with no hard liquor, so it’s low ABV. That’s a big part of the draw for health-conscious consumers and warm weather daytime drinkers,” explains Layne Cox, Union’s chief marketing officer.
Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits (SGWS) saw Cordials/Liquors and Italian Sparkling Wine drive growth this past summer, indicating that key Spritz ingredients have become more important for bar and restaurant sales. Those two categories nearly doubled their contribution to SGWS on-premise growth during the three months ending July 31, 2023, based on volume change and relative to their contribution over the last 12 months. In short: These key Spritz ingredients reached nearly the same growth levels as Tequila for the company.
Once Labor Day passes, operators may be packing up the popular summer Spritz in lieu of heavier-style fall cocktails. However, Union data shows that Spritz Season isn’t entirely over yet.
While it’s certainly not summer without a Spritz on the menu, data based on guest orders at Union bars and restaurants points to a shifting trend in which the Spritz is no longer strictly a seasonal drink. Spritz sales in November, December, and January increased year over year, with the biggest shift in the month January, which grew by 161 percent in dollar sales over the prior year.
“The drink’s popularity and festive reputation is crossing over earlier into the spring, and also later on the calendar into the holiday months. There’s an opportunity for operators to rethink the ‘Spritzes for Summer’ adage and to plan for seasonal twists that can translate to the cooler months,” Cox says.
Getting to Know Spritz Drinkers to Maximize Sales
Those who order Spritzes show overlap with wine drinkers. They are 217 percent more likely to also be wine drinkers as compared to all cocktail drinkers. The likelihood that a guest will purchase a Spritz again on their next bar visit during which they consume cocktails is 40 percent, which is a low retention rate compared to other popular cocktails, such as the Margarita, which has a 68 percent retention rate at Union.
The next most likely cocktail for a Spritz drinker to consume on a subsequent visit are a Margarita, Espresso Martini, Moscow Mule, and Old Fashioned, in that order of preference.
Cox explains, “Traditionally, the Spritz is served as an aperitif, which may explain why retention for this cocktail is relatively low. It’s seen as a starter drink, something to kick off your evening and whet your appetite for your meal.”
So it’s no surprise Spritz consumption skews significantly to the earlier part of the day, prior to dinnertime, compared to cocktails overall.
Source: OnPrem Insights, September 1, 2022 to August 31, 2023.
Who orders all these Spritzes? Union data shows that at bars and restaurants, women order it more often than men. While Spritz consumption is technically close to evenly split by gender, it represents a significant skew towards women when compared to consumption of all cocktails.
Source: OnPrem Insights, September 1, 2022 to August 31, 2023.
Going Beyond the Aperol Spritz
Aperol is unsurprisingly the predominant brand featured in Spritzes at Union, showing up in 89 percent of total Spritz volume. This classic Venetian-style Spritz is a surefire hit on- and off-premise.
The Campari Group, makers of Aperol, is also seeing the rewards of the drink’s popularity. The company reported 122.5 percent growth for Aperol in its core U.S. market in the first half of 2023. Drizly, the online ordering and alcohol delivery platform, reported that Aperol is now the top-selling liqueur on the platform, boasting category share growth of 25 percent year-over-year.
On-premise, the Spritz has become more of an idea than a strict recipe. On Union menus, the Paloma Spritz is the most common Spritz type that doesn’t feature Aperol, but instead swaps in Tequila and grapefruit soda. Though the majority of Spritzes follow the “standard” makeup, Strawberry and Peach are the two most common flavors for flavored Aperol Spritzes.
“The Spritz trend just keeps on going,” says Cox, “and given the drink’s versatile nature, with one ingredient swap operators can make the drink new again.”
The Spritz is a light drink, for moments that are social and celebratory. Think: office outings, rehearsal dinners, happy hour. Anything that calls for a casual toast, big or small. Moreover, it can bring in a significant premium compared to the average cocktail, according to Cox.
At Union venues, the average cost of a Spritz is about $12.60, compared to about $10.25 for the average cocktail. “Keep in mind that’s mostly representative of Aperol Spritzes. So there’s some room to create signature, premium, seasonal, or otherwise non-standard versions of this simple cocktail that could bring in guests year-round,” Cox adds.