Hugo: The Alpine Spritz

November 24, 2015 / Food & Wine
Dolomiti & Südtirol
Spritz Hugos in a row | ©Tom Palladio ImagesHere’s a palate-pleasing Italian aperitivo (cocktail) to wrap your hand around that’s already a big hit up in the South Tyrol and a serious rival to the more popular and classic Spritz Veneziano (Venetian Spritz).

Spritz Hugo | ©Tom Palladio ImagesIt’s called the Spritz Hugo (Ugo in Italian, pronounced OOH-goh). It’s the preferred aperitivo — summer or winter — around the Dolomites. Refreshing and light, the Spritz Hugo has been high-altitude tested by respected baristi.

Germans and Austrians will no doubt disagree, but this aperitivo was created in 2005 by Italian barista Roland Gruber at the San Zeno Wine & Cocktail Bar in Naturno, where German is spoken and Italian understood.

Prosecco and Sciroppo di Sambuco | ©Tom Palladio ImagesGruber jumpstarted the craze by mixing Prosecco sparkling wine, seltzer water, fresh mint leaves and a syrup made from the flowers of an indigenous plant that thrives in the mountains — Elderberry.

Spritz Hugo fronts Prosecco | ©Tom Palladio ImagesElderberry — Sambucus Nigra (Latin), Sambuco Nero (Italian) — is the plant from whose flowers (Elderflowers) are transformed into Sciroppo di Sambuco, a deep-yellow sweet cordial that is the key ingredient to a properly prepared Spritz Hugo.

Not too much of the Elderflower syrup is needed in the Spritz Hugo, just enough to let you know that it’s in there. The Hugo is approximately 4/5 Prosecco and 1/5 Elderflower Syrup, or just about a 4-to-1 ratio.

Spritz Hugo ingredients graphic | ©Tom Palladio Images

Care to make one? Great. Let’s mosey on up to the virtual bar and get our hands a bit sticky using a bottle of homemade Sciroppo di Sambuco from up in the Val Pusteria.

Prepping a Spritz Hugo | ©Tom Palladio Images

Step-1: Add ice cubes to the glass

Step-2: Add the Prosecco

Step-3: Add the syrup

Step-4: Splash in the water

Step-5: Garnish with mint leaves and lemon slice

Step-6: Stir gently to mix fully

Spritz Hugo and chips | ©Tom Palladio Images Cocktail chips | ©Tom Palladio Images Spritz Hugo | ©Tom Palladio Images

The Dolomite-tested Spritz Hugo. It’s the low-octane, high-altitude Italian cocktail preferred by skiers, snowboarders, hikers and trekkers alike.


by Tom Weber

Tom is a veteran print-broadcast journalist who resides in the Colli Euganei (Euganean Hills) in the province of Padova in the Veneto region of northestern Italy. He hosts the eclectic travel/foodie/photography blog The Palladian, is a regular contributor to Los Angeles-based, and is a member of the International Travel Writers Alliance. Feel free to follow Tom as he “meanders along the cobblestone to somewhere.”

14 Responses to “Hugo: The Alpine Spritz”

  1. Oh my goodness this is unbelievably delicious. At a bar in the Veneto region one evening the owner commented that his local, organic Prosecco did not cause a hangover. This turned out to be true, I can report.

  2. Linda Boccia

    Tom” Since elderberries, which grow in my birth state of Washington, but are not found all year around, I wondered if you could substitute cranberry juice. I have mint growing pretty much all year around in the San Francisco Bay area, but elderberries appear also in California and other states like Colorado in the mountains etc, are not readily available. But perhaps the juice of same is and i haven’t looked for it. Thanks it sounds interesting and would, of course, be more fun to drink in Sudtirol, but what can you do when you are not there?

    • Linda — Cranberry juice will not a Hugo make. Best continue your search for the sweet syrupy goodness of elderberry. Buon Anno!

  3. Michael Yaccino

    Hi Tom,
    When I was introduced to the Hugo a few years ago in Trento, I was very confused about the ingredients. I was confused because it did not taste like anis. It took me a few Hugos (or is it Hugi) and a few baristi before I understood that Sambucca (a) was the anis and Sambucco (o) was the elderberry. While visiting parenti we were surprised to find that they used homemade elderberry liquore. When we returned to the states one of the first things on our list was to buy the Elderberry liquore so we could introduce the drink to our friends. The recipe was on the label. Here in the states the Elderbery liquore is quite expensive. Our friend enjoyed it as much as we did.

  4. Yummy! I’m gonna buy the ingredients today and drink them through the Thanksgiving holiday! Grazie e CinCin!!!!

  5. At a small bar in the village of Cison in Valdobbiadene was where I first enjoyed a Hugo and had no idea it was an actual drink – just thought it was just an aperitivo made up by the barman. Glad to know the origins!

  6. Victoria De Maio

    Ah, cin cin indeed! A great summer drink, too! I first tasted the elderflower and prosecco cocktail at a winetasting event several years ago and it was amazing! How could I forget? Thanks for the reminder.


Leave a Reply