Studio Calabash

Make this aperitif from Chicago cocktail bar The Violet Hour your go-to porch sipper for the rest of summer.

Carey Jones
August 07, 2018

Summer means spritzes, of course — whether it's the classic Aperol Spritz, or an upgraded frozen version, or any other iteration you can imagine. (How about a Montenegro Spritz? A Cappelletti Spritz? There are very few Italian liqueurs that can’t be spritz-ified.) 

The combination of a bittersweet liqueur, sparkling wine, and soda—always with a citrus garnish—is perfectly suited to long, lazy brunches and sultry summer evenings, whenever you’re in search of a cocktail that’s light, crisp, and not too sweet.  

Earl Grey tea? It might not seem an obvious inspiration for a summer drink. But the “Grammar Rugby” from iconic Chicago cocktail bar The Violet Hour is something like an Earl Grey spritz—bright and sparkling but with the intriguing flavor of bergamot woven in. And, wouldn’t you know it, there’s an Italian liqueur in the mix... 

The key is the liqueur known as “Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto,” a current darling of mixologists across the country. "Adding the Italicus brings bergamot and chamomile to the party,” says Toby Maloney, head mixologist and partner at The Violet Hour. 

“When I see bergamot, typically found in Earl Grey tea, I think of cold weather comfort,” he says, “while chamomile reminds me of a summer meadow.” But the floral duo works beautifully in summer cocktails.  

Bringing together the Italicus liqueur with lime, vodka, a little simple syrup, and a big pour of cava, the Grammar Rugby makes for an ideal aperitif. Since the Italicus is so well-balanced, the bergamot flavor is pleasantly restrained, rather than the full-on punch you get with a cup of Earl Grey. “It’s bright, citrusy, and floral,” says Maloney, “like a summer alpine breeze.” 

Like any good warm weather drink, this spritz is easy to scale up for a party. Maloney has a brilliant, why-didn’t-we-think-of-that rule of thumb to make eight drinks rather than one: “Just switch the ounces in the recipe to cups,” he says. Combine all the ingredients except the cava in a pitcher with ice, and give it a good long stir. Pour the cava over the top, and you’re good to go. Have some lime wheels ready on the side, because for a spritz, as for all drinks, a garnish is essential.  

“This is definitely a porch sipper,” according to Maloney. It’s “long, tall, bubbly, and bracingly cold” — everything a summer cocktail should be. 

Grammar Rugby 

While many spritzes are forgiving with their proportions, you should be precise with the sparkling wine in this cocktail. “Cava really dries the drink out,” says Maloney, “so be careful not to overdo it and make the drink thin and acidic.”

3/4 oz vodka (Maloney recommends Modest Vodka)

3/4 oz lime juice

3/4 oz Italics Bergamotto Liqueur

1/2 oz simple syrup 

2-3 ounces cava

Instructions: Combine ingredients, other than cava, in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled, at least 15 seconds. Strain into a Collins glass with fresh ice and add 2-3 ounces of cava. Garnish with a thin lime wheel.