Hugo: The Alpine Spritz

Here’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).

It’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 baristas.

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.

Gruber jump-started the craze by mixing Prosecco sparkling wine, seltzer water, fresh mint leaves and lemon syrup, and casually called his creation the Hugo/Ugo, for no apparent reason.

He later tweaked the recipe, dropping the lemon syrup and adding a syrup made from the flowers of an indigenous plant that thrives all across the European Alps — Elderberry. And, the real Spritz Hugo was born and continues to stand on the top rung of the ladder of popularity around bars, chalets and other watering holes that dot the landscape.

Elderberry — Sambucus Nigra (Latin), Sambuco Nero (Italian) — is the plant from whose flowers (Elderflowers) are transformed into Sciroppo di Sambuco, a syrupy-sweet cordial that is the key ingredient to a properly prepared Spritz Hugo.

Not to be mistaken with Sambuca — the strong, licorice-flavored, clear liqueur with the signature three coffee beans (mosquitos) floating in the glass — Sciroppo di Sambuco is bright yellow, very sweet and comes out thick, like a syrup should.

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, just about a 4-to-1 ratio between the two primary liquids.

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 courtesy of Helene Markart, Executive Chef at Hotel Adler in Villabassa up in the Val Pusteria.

Spritz Hugo recipe graphic | ©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

The Dolomite-tested Spritz Hugo. It’s the low-octane, high-altitude Italian cocktail preferred by skiers, snowboarders, hikers and trekkers alike. The Spritz Hugo. The one aperitivo guaranteed to have you smiling and dreaming about a winter or summer vacation up in the mountains. Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo!

Please drink responsibly.

©The Palladian Traveler

Borsalino w/ props SMALL | ©Tom Palladio Images




  1. Sounds simply scrumptious! I developed a serious relationship with Proseco when I visited Italy. I’ll have to try and source some of the Sciroppo di Sambuco and try this cocktail version.

  2. Tom: skipping the ice..chilled the glass … more room for Prosecco .. No bad days. A toast to thee! EB

  3. Ooh, I like the sound of this one. Very much my cup of tea, as we say in Puddingshire. We have elderflower cordial here, usually diluted with sparkling water for a refreshing non-alcoholic summer drink, so I reckon a splash of that in my Hugo would work a treat.

  4. We went to Kronplatz this past Saturday and I saw one being served and asked “whaats thaaaaat!!??” HUGO!!! Our barista said they use 1. Ice cubes in Lg wine glass 2. Prosecco 3. Elderflower Syrup 4. Squeeze of lemon and lime juice 5. Splash of sparkling water 6. Spearmint leaves and lemon slice YUMMY!!!!! HOOKED

  5. I was introduced to this last night but with a splash of vodka – verdict….delicious

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