It’s the pop heard ‘round the world. Prosecco’s egalitarian appeal has created an out-and-out prolific outpouring of the fetching Italian frizzante—so much so, you can’t throw a cork without hitting a bar or restaurant with at least one bottle on the menu these days.
But beyond being a delightful (and affordable) sparkling wine to sip all on its own, Prosecco is also the secret weapon in giving solemn, stately cocktails a little effervescent oomph. The best place to turn for inspiration: Venice, of course—birthplace of the Bellini and a stone’s throw from Prosecco’s ancestral home.
Within that lovely region, you will find the Prosecco DOC and DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita)—strictly designated areas where true Prosecco may be legally produced. It is here, in the lush valleys and craggy mountains running between the regions of Veneto and Friuli, that lay the perfect growing conditions for the glera grape, the source of pretty Prosecco.
Enrico Fuga, the talented bar manager behind the stick at the Skyline Rooftop Bar in Venice’s Hilton Molino Stucky, a former flour factory turned luxury hotel, makes great use of the northern Italian bubbly in many of his cocktails. “Champagne doesn’t match up as well,” he proclaims. “Prosecco is more versatile.”
But are all Prosecco’s created equally?
“For the Prosecco choice,” offers Fuga, “it really depends on the sweetness level you want to obtain at the end of the drink.”
How do you know what that is? Easy. On every bottle, you will see one of the following words to clue you in:
• Brut: Super dry!
• Extra Dry: Remember this: “dry” on a label means sweet. Confusing? Sure. So like your times tables, just learn it. Extra dry means the wine in front of you is going to have a bit of extra sugar. You’ll notice it in how it enhances the inherent fruity characteristics of the wine—notes of peach and green apple—on your tongue.
• Dry: Let’s say it again: dry means sweet! In this case, between 17-32 grams per liter.
• Demi-Sec: Dessert in your glass. Yum.
You might also see two other terms: Brut Nature and Extra Brut. The latter will soon be an official descriptor in the DOCG only, and means the bottle you’re eyeballing has between 0-6 grams of sugar per liter. Which to you translates into a near absence of sweetness. Brut Nature means zero, zip, nada extra sugar in there, so it’s the cracker-dryest of them all.
Applying this to cocktail making is pretty easy. If you want to enhance fresh, sour, or savory ingredients in a drink, go brut or extra brut. If you want to play up fruity notes in a cocktail, veer in the direction of Extra Dry or Dry Prosecco.
“Usually I use the brut because it gives the freshness and the right balance I am looking for,” Fuga offers. As for DOC or DOCG level, he tends to stick to the easy elegance of the DOC-level wines, reserving the DOCG bottles for pure Prosecco pleasure.
Try one of these fab four sips from Fuga. And no matter what, remember the most important rule of thumb: If you’d drink it on its own, it’ll be molto bene in your cocktails.
“This is my special version of a classic Daiquiri,” says Fuga. “The fresh Prosecco and dark rum are like a wedding that has to happen!”
- 4 to 5 mints leaves, plus extra for garnish
- 1.5 oz. Havana Club anejo rum
- 0.75 oz. fresh lime juice
- 0.50 oz. simple syrup
- 3 to 4 drops Angostura bitters
- Brut-style Prosecco
Fill a shaker with ice. Add in the first five ingredients and shake well. Double strain into a martini glass. Top with Prosecco and garnish with the remaining mint leaf.
A cross between the classic Italian Spritz and a Paloma, this refreshing sipper gets an added bit of buoyancy from the brut-style Prosecco that Fuga adds to the mix.
- 0.75 oz. Aperol
- 0.50 oz. blanco tequila
- Brut-style Prosecco
- 0.75 oz. high-quality grapefruit soda
- 1 slice pink grapefruit, dipped in Maldon sea salt
Fill a chilled wine glass with ice. Pour in the Aperol, tequila, and Prosecco. Top with grapefruit soda and with the grapefruit slice.
When Fuga makes this riff on an Americano on a Negroni at the Skyline, he deconstructs its parts by creating a Campari jelly and dehydrated orange peel, each served as separate components to be nibbled alongside the drink.
- 1 oz. Vallentini Bitter or Campari
- 1 oz. Carpano Classico sweet vermouth
- 1 oz. Toral gin
- Brut Prosecco
- 1 broad orange peel
- 1 orange slice
In a double rocks glass, pour in the first four ingredients. Carefully add in ice and stir. Wipe the rim of the glass with the inside of the orange peel and drop in. Further garnish with the orange slice.
Classic Skyline Bellini
White peaches are grown in abundance in this area of northern Italy, which is how it came to be the favored combo with Prosecco by its creator, Giuseppe Cipriani, the owner of the famed Harry’s Bar in Venice. Because white peach season is only in the summer, Fugo freezes them and then makes a puree with simple syrup so he has the good stuff on hand all year long.
- 2 oz. fresh white peach puree
- 3 to 4 oz. Brut or Extra-dry Prosecco
Pour the puree into a champagne flute. Top with Prosecco.