Friday Happy Hour: Top Drink Picks for Spring

Pay no attention to forecast of snow, spring is upon us. Now is the time to start thinking about what you’re going to be drinking. I get excited about a few very specific things once the weather warms up, mainly wine and spritzes. Weird, I know, but don’t knock it until you try it.

Winter is the time for brown spirits and red wine. Come spring and summer I do a total 180 and switch almost exclusively to white wine. This season I’m most excited about the whites coming out of Greece. Last month I was raving about a crisp assyritko from Santorini, since then I’ve been exploring whites from all over Greece and the eastern Mediterranean. Turns out they’re damned good and easy to find in DC. My favorite spots have been Iron Gate in Dupont and Dunya in Shaw, which has one of the best roof decks in the city.

The rocky soil and salty sea breeze make for great wines to pair with light springtime fare. Look for a wine with light citrus notes and a great minerality to pair with a golden beet and goat cheese salad. Or that salty assyritko with any seafood. My favorite is fried oysters. Totally non traditional, but it’s the best fried oysters and white wine you’ll ever have. And albeit the first fried oysters and white wine you’ve ever had.

But spring’s not all about the whites. Keeping in the Mediterranean theme, my next go to once the sun starts shining and temps warm up is an amari spritz. Friday Happy Hour readers know my love of all things italian and bitter and spring is no different. Only come springtime it’s high time to boot the Boulevardier in favor of something a little lighter. Enter the spritz. Simple, delicious, eminently drinkable. Most commonly made with either Aperol or Campari, slightly bitter orange-flavored liqueurs, simply top with sparkling wine and soda water, garnish elaborately with an orange slice, and drink until you’re fluent in Italian.

Less well known than the Aperol spritz or the Campari spritz is my preferred version, the vermouth spritz. Sometimes lighter, sometimes not, but always low proof and that means even more drinkable. These rank up with Gin Tonics on levels of drinkability. So after half a dozen you won’t be seeing doppio, unlike the more high octane version.

To make a good vermouth spritz, you need a good vermouth. Unfortunately premium rossos (sweeter reds) tend to be a bit pricey, we’re talking anywhere from $20-$30 for a bottle of what is essentially slightly boozier wine. But what they lack in proof they more than make up for in flavor. Herbal, spicey, with a rich sweetness, these things take to soda water and an orange slice like I do to relaxing on a sailboat. Just make sure you pick up a Vermouth di Torino; Turin, Italy has it’s own Protected Designation of Origin for vermouth and amari, and the some of the best in the world are produced there. If you can find it, get either Cocchi Vermouth di Torino or Carpano Antica Formula. If not, just look for a brand that has “Vermouth di Torino” on the label and you’re in business.

If rosso’s aren’t your thing, never fear, biancos work just as well. Sweet like a rosso but still light, like a dry vermouth, biancos were put on this Earth to be made into a spritz. Martini & Rossi makes a great bianco that clocks in at around $12 a bottle. Muddle in a few berries or mint in there, top with soda water and you’ll blow your friends away.

Don’t let this highly temperamental weather get you do, soon you’ll be sipping spritzes and noshing on oysters and assyritkos and you won’t have a care in the world. Just remember to start stocking up now.

Paul Allen

While having only recently relocated to DC, Paul has been a long time fan of DC’s cocktail culture. In his short career he has tended bar for GQ, Bombay Sapphire, Campari, and Nikka Whisky in London. Currently you can find him behind the stick at Firefly. When not working, he’s likely vociferously advocating for the DC Craft Bartender’s Guild or trying to brew the perfect cup of tea. Though he misses his native Rhode Island’s beaches and beautiful fall weather, Paul is proud to live, work, and–most importantly–drink in DC.


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