A touch of amaro and Lambrusco turn a summery spritz into a cool-weather classic in this month’s Last Call cocktail.

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Cheers to a Cool-Weather Classic

While all the bottlings from Baia—a Northport wine label from power couple Michael “Chet ” Chetcuti and Kyle Evans—are worth seeking out, I especially love pouring their Lambrusco. Although this slightly effervescent wine style originally hails from the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy and is historically made with a grape of the same name, Chetcuti and Evans make their “Lambo” with 100 percent Marquette—a cold-climate grape that is a descendant of pinot noir. For someone whose go-to restaurant order is either a glass of bubbly or a glass of pinot, Leelanau County’s Lambo checks both boxes.

While most people simply sip Lambrusco “as is,” I’m seeing the Italian sparkler in cocktails more often—where it lends a fizzy float to drinks. To wit, when Detroit barman Dave Kwiatkowski purchased Northport’s Garage Bar-B-Q last summer (now named Fingers Crossed), he brought the bestselling cocktail from Sugar House, his Corktown cocktail destination, north with him. In it, a combination of blanco tequila, raspberry syrup and freshly squeezed lime juice is topped with Lambrusco. When Kwiatkowski started serving this fan favorite at the eatery, located just a few miles from the vineyard where Baia grapes are grown, his team traded the Lambrusco they’d been using downstate for the locally-loved Lambo. It’s a swap he says made the cocktail even better. “It’s got a lot of fruit flavor but it’s not sweet at all,” Kwiatkowski says of Baia’s Lambo. “It really dries out.”

Photo by Dave Weidner

Photo by Dave Weidner

Inspired by a recipe from Rebekah Peppler, author of “Apéritif ” and “À Table,” I asked Chetcuti and Evans if they ever drink their Lambo as a spritz. “All the time,” Chet responded, before revealing his secret ingredient: a scant splash of pineapple juice. While traditional spritzes are generally thought of as a summertime thirst quencher for the pickleball set, Lambrusco helps winterize the classic. With notes of pomegranate and currants on the nose, the Baia Lambo is a natural fit for yuletide menus. Add a high-quality herbal amaro and a bar spoon of that pineapple juice and the drink takes on a round, warming complexity that might just one-up your granny’s fruitcake.

Snowbird Spritz Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1-ounce amaro, such as Nonino or Meletti
  • 3 ounces Baia Lambo or another Lambrusco
  • 1-ounce club soda
  • Bar spoon of pineapple juice
  • Pineapple wheel, for garnish
  • Cocktail cherry, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Place ice cubes in a rocks glass.
  2. Add amaro, Lambrusco, club soda and pineapple juice—in that order.
  3. Take a page from the pineapple upside-down cake and garnish with a pineapple wheel and a cherry and serve. 

Stacey Brugeman is a 20-year food and beverage journalist. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Saveur, Eater and on Instagram @staceybrugeman.

Dave Weidner is a local photographer for Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine. Follow him on Instagram @dzwphoto.

Sarah Peschel is a stylist and photographer with an appreciation for all things related to local agriculture, food and drink.

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner / Styling by Sarah Peschel