If you’ve been to brunch or happy hour in the past twenty years or so, you’ve likely come across a spritz cocktail—most likely an Aperol spritz. There is more to this category than Aperol, however. The spritz generally refers to any drink made with bitter liqueur and topped with sparkling wine and soda, though bartenders have invented countless variations through the years. More than a single drink, the spritz represents the Italian drinking tradition of an aperitivo: something light, effervescent and not too alcoholic to stimulate one’s appetite and conversation before a meal.
One of the best ways to enjoy the ritual of the spritz at aperitivo hour is on a beautiful patio - one of those open-air urban oases of which Los Angeles has so many spectacular options.
The following are some of the best spots around town to relax and enjoy what authors Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau in their book Spritz: Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail call "La dolce vita if only for an hour."
Alta Adams in West Adams (5359 W Adams Blvd, Los Angeles 90016) has made waves in the local food scene with chef Keith Corbin’s innovative takes on southern and California cooking in a community-centric, world-class environment. Of course, nothing brings neighbors together like a fantastic backyard and some excellent, sparkling drinks. The Through the Grapevine, while not strictly having an aperitivo base, hits all the right notes of being effervescent and herbaceous, with vodka, concord grape, tarragon, and tonic.
Botanica (1620 Silver Lake Blvd, Los Angeles 90026) has a patio accessible through the main dining room - however, the space lends itself to the illusion that one is already in a garden, possibly on an island surrounded by wild lettuces, natural wines and fancy olive oils. The brainchild of food writers-turned-restaurateurs Emily Fiffer and Heather Sperling, Botanica is a conscious and curated spot that's great to stake out an aperitivo hour oasis while enjoying some plant-centric bites. So appropriate is the space for spritzing is that they have their own house version, the Botanica Spritz, with Aperol, Lillet Blanc, grapefruit and seltzer; and a delightful vermouth and soda offering (try it and prepare to have all your preconceptions of vermouth vanquished).
After you’ve made your way through the high-ceilinged dining room at Cafe Birdie (5631 N Figueroa St, Los Angeles 90042), before you get to the companion cocktail bar Good Housekeeping, you’ll find a hidden covered patio. A quiet hideaway from both street and restaurant noise, it’s an excellent spot to post up on a date or in a group with a supremely refreshing Penelope Spritz, made with Spanish vermouth, sparkling wine, citrus and mint.
Fashion District newcomer DAMA (612 E 11th St., Los Angeles, CA 90015) feels like the very embodiment of aperitivo style—it has an entire section of bar director Pablo Moix’s cocktail menu devoted to these low-ABV, meal-opening libations and a particular fondness for all things red and bitter. The patio is large, lush, and ideal for pretending you’re the protagonist in a novel about expats in 1920s Havana while enjoying a Negroni Sbagliato—Campari, sweet vermouth and Prosecco—and chef Antonia Lofaso’s Latin-inspired shared plates.
This posh, family friendly “restaurant/cafe” is the first California project of London restaurateurs (and reality TV alums) Marissa and Matt Hermer. The Draycott (15255 Palisades Village Lane, Pacific Palisades 90272) celebrates its British influence with a Pimm’s Cup—an English spritz, if you ask us—made with eponymous herbal liqueur, soda, fruit and cucumber—as well as with the more Italian-inflected SW11 (Aperol, elderflower, Champagne and orange).
No list of Italian-inspired drinking in this town would be complete without the bar concepts at Eataly (10250 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles 90067). True to its country-of-inspiration’s drinking traditions, Eataly doubles down, celebrating aperitivo hour each weekday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., including a spritz made with Montanaro Aperitivo, Prosecco and soda. From the Terra wine bar on the roof, the Stealing Love Spritz (Gra’it grappa, Tosolini Fragola liqueur, Meletti amaro, honey, thyme, Vecchia Modena Lambrusco) or the No Sleep Till Brooklyn Spritz (St. Agrestis Paradiso Apertivo, vino spumanti, Brooklyn sparkling water, lemon) represent admirable modern takes with both old school and contemporary ingredients to enjoy with those sunset snacks.
Esters Wine Shop & Bar
Fun fact: the spritz’s modern history began with the simple addition of water by occupying Austrians to local Italian wines that they either did not like, or could not handle (depending on whom you ask). Best known as a stellar wine bar and bottle shop, Esters Wine Shop (1314 7th St, Santa Monica 90401) has a full bar, and though none of wine director Kathryn Coker’s wines should be watered down, this convivial spot still embraces the spritz with vigor. Enjoy time on the string-lit patio with the Sherry Spritz, a combination of manzanilla sherry, gin, grapefruit, lemon, bitters, soda, and go full-on aperitivo hour with their famous signature snacks.
Located within the Hauser & Wirth gallery, Manuela (907 E 3rd Street, Los Angeles 90013) is suffused with pleasant contradictions. It feels protected from the elements yet open and airy, a modern restaurant and cocktail bar in an antique building, a place growing its own greens and chickens in the heart of Downtown LA’s Arts District. The crowd, too, is a diverse mix of loyal locals and gallery visitors, stumbling in for a wonderful surprise. Its atmosphere of respite is best celebrated with an Orange is the New Spritz - Gra’it grappa, amaro angeleno, Cava, tangerine, kumquat and lemon. This new world spritz riff employs a home grown bitter liqueur and a citrus level that is so So Cal.
A hub for stylish drinkers thirsty for excellent views at the top of the Platform development, the Mediterranean-inspired Margot (8820 Washington Blvd., Suite 301, Culver City 90232) does not disappoint those in search of a more luxe aperitivo experience. A nod to the spritz’s Italian roots, the Allura is made with blood orange amaro, absinthe, grapefruit bitters and Cava should do the trick nicely. As an added plus, Margot is open until 2 a.m. if you prefer to extend your spritzing hours into the wee hours.
The most cocktail-centric venue of longtime Santa Monica restaurant group On the Verge hospitality, Margo’s (1534 Montana Ave, Santa Monica 90403) offers a dog-friendly spritzing experience all day. The 1534 Spritz - made with CioCaro, Lazaroni Amaro Liqueur, orange bitters, and soda water - stands out as a modern riff that manages to make two traditional digestivo amari quite refreshing for patio time. For those who want to mix one day drinking period with another, brunch runs seven days a week.