Embrace the chilly season with a Winter Aperol Spritz, the perfect cocktail to add a sparkle to your holiday season. This cranberry Aperol spritz takes the classic Italian aperitif and blends bittersweet Aperol with tart cranberry and lemon, topped with bubbly Prosecco to create a drink that’s sure to become a winter favorite.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Seasonal Twist: The addition of cranberry juice along with the fresh rosemary and cranberry garnishes gives the classic Aperol Spritz recipe a festive and seasonal spin, making it perfect for winter and holiday festivities, like Christmas or New Years Eve gatherings.
- Refreshing Balance: The bittersweet combination of Aperol with the tart lemon and cranberry flavors provides a refreshing balance that can be a delightful winter aperitif or palate cleanser.
- Easy to Batch: Its festive appearance and delicious flavor make it a crowd-pleaser, so it’s an easy cocktail to make in batches for a crowd of people.
- Low ABV: It has a low alcohol by volume percentage (% ABV) making it perfect for those who don’t want to imbibe too much or prefer a lighter drink.
What is a Winter Aperol Spritz?
Classic Italian spritz cocktails originated when Habsburg soldiers stationed in Veneto watered down the local wines to lower their alcohol strength. This practice laid the groundwork for the traditional Aperol Spritz, which emerged in early 20th-century Northern Italy. Now the Aperol Spritz is a staple in many bars and restaurants but is generally considered a summer drink.
A Winter Aperol Spritz ensures you can enjoy your favorite cocktail all year round. By incorporating seasonal ingredients like cranberry juice, the drink not only aligns with the seasonal produce but also adds a winter twist.
The novelty of a winterized Aperol Spritz can capture the curiosity of spritz lovers, offering them a familiar favorite reimagined for the chilly months. Moreover, its versatility shines through when paired with the hearty fare of winter meals, serving as a perfect aperitif to stimulate the appetite or a digestif to conclude a dining experience.
Aperol: With its unmistakable vibrant orange hue, this bittersweet Italian liqueur can be found at most well-stocked liquor stores.
Cranberry Juice Cocktail: This is a sweetened type of cranberry juice. If you want a more sour cocktail, you can use unsweetened 100% juice.
Lemon Juice: To balance the sweetness in both the Aperol and cranberry juice cocktail, fresh lemon juice adds a zesty, citrus acidity that brightens the drink.
Prosecco: This is a type of Italian sparkling wine. I recommend finding a dry or brut prosecco to help balance the sweetness of the other ingredients.
Seasonal Garnishes: I like to use fresh cranberries and a sprig of rosemary for garnish. An orange slice or pomegranate arils would also pair nicely.
Step 1: Add the cranberry juice and Aperol to a wine or spritz glass.
Step 2: Add the lemon juice and top with prosecco. Garnish with a rosemary sprig.
Expert Tips and Variations
- Take care to gently place ice cubes into your glassware when preparing a Winter Aperol Spritz. Use an ice scoop and let the cubes slide in softly to protect your delicate glasses.
- Chill your ingredients. This will help to keep your cocktail cold and refreshing.
- If you like a sweeter cocktail, you can add a splash of simple syrup.
- If you want a more sour cocktail, opt for 100% cranberry juice or increase the lemon juice amount.
- To bring out more bitter flavor, add a few dashes of orange bitters to your drink or you can also adjust the amount of Aperol.
A Winter Aperol Spritz is best served in a large wine glass, which allows ample room for ice and garnishes while also providing enough space for the bubbles and aromas to circulate, enhancing the drinking experience. A highball glass could also work well, especially for more casual occasions.
Here are a few of my favorite glassware options:
A Winter Aperol Spritz, with its balance of bittersweet and effervescent notes, pairs beautifully with a variety of foods, such as charcuterie boards, like my Christmas Tree Board or Wreath Board.
Seafood appetizers like my Spicy Cranberry Shrimp are an excellent pairing as well. And, my Whipped Goat Cheese Crostini or Tomato and Pesto Whipped Feta Bruschetta are a couple of other great accompaniments.
A dry or brut Prosecco is typically recommended because its dryness offsets the sweetness of this winter spritz, maintaining a balanced taste.
You don’t have to break the bank by any means – I wouldn’t spend more than $20 on a bottle of sparkling wine if I’m using it in cocktails.
(Full disclosure: I’ve used prosecco for cocktails that range in price, but more often than not, you’ll find me using Kirkland Prosecco from Costco for cocktails. It only retails for around $7!)
Yes, you can use Campari as a substitute for Aperol in a Winter Aperol Spritz, but keep in mind that Campari is a more bitter liqueur and has a higher alcohol content. The swap will create a cocktail with a deeper, more intense bitterness and a stronger flavor profile.
Adjust the sweetness accordingly with simple syrup if needed to balance out the increased bitterness of Campari. To learn more about Aperol and its more bitter cousin, Campari, check out my post about the differences between these delicious Italian aperitifs.
Yes, you definitely can make a batch, and they can be partially prepared in advance, which is great for a holiday party. Scale up the ingredients based on the number of servings you plan to offer.
Tips for batching:
1. Add all of your chilled ingredients to a large pitcher. You can allow guests to self-serve.
2. Pour the chilled drink into glasses already filled with ice. Don’t add ice to the batch as it will get watered down.
3. Freeze fresh cranberries in advance to add to the pitcher to keep cool without dilution.
Making in Advance:
Partial mix: You can mix the Aperol, cranberry juice, and lemon juice ahead of time and keep it chilled in the refrigerator up to a day in advance.
Prosecco: Add the chilled Prosecco as close to serving time as possible to ensure the drink is fresh and bubbly.
Garnishes: Prepare garnishes ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator or a cool place.
By separating the bubbly component and the ice from the main mixture, you can enjoy a fresh and vibrant batch of Winter Aperol Spritz whenever you’re ready to serve.
More Aperol Cocktails
More Holiday Cocktails
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Winter Aperol Spritz Recipe
- 2 ounces Aperol
- 2 ounces cranberry juice cocktail
- ½ ounce lemon juice
- 3-5 ounces Prosecco
- Rosemary and fresh cranberries for garnish (optional)
- Add the Aperol and juice to a large wine glass or spritz glass filled with ice.
- Top with prosecco and garnish with rosemary and/or fresh cranberries, if desired.
- 2 cups Aperol
- 2 cups cranberry juice cocktail
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 3-5 cups prosecco (equals about 1-1.5 (750ml) bottles)
- Rosemary and fresh cranberries for garnish (optional)
- Add all of your ingredients to a large pitcher. You can allow guests to self-serve.
- Pour the chilled drink into glasses filled with ice. Don’t add ice to the batch as it will get watered down.
- Freeze fresh cranberries in advance to add to the pitcher to keep cool without dilution.
- Partial mix: You can mix the Aperol, cranberry juice, and lemon juice ahead of time and keep it chilled in the refrigerator up to a day in advance.
- Prosecco: Add the Prosecco as close to serving time as possible to ensure the drink is fresh and bubbly.
- Garnishes: Prepare garnishes ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator or a cool place.