In just 5 minutes, you can enjoy a classic Italian-style cocktail. This three-ingredient limoncello spritz recipe highlights that beautiful lemon flavor, all while enjoying the refreshing bubbles from prosecco.
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I can confidently say that after going to culinary school in Italy, I drank a lot of limoncello and learned even more about it.
Inspired by my time in the Mediterranean, I created this super simple, three-ingredient limoncello spritz with prosecco. This is the perfect drink during the summer when you're looking for something refreshing to sip on that doesn’t require much time to make.
What You'll Learn In This Recipe
- Why Italians love limoncello and what makes it so tasty.
- An easy trick to make a mint garnish super aromatic.
- The classic spritz ratio and why this recipe strays away from it.
If you enjoy this cocktail and want to learn about many others, sign up for my free bartender cheat sheet where you’ll find 45 different cocktail recipes all in one place.
What Is A Spritz Cocktail?
According to The Oxford Companion to Spirits & Cocktails, the spritz cocktail was thought to have been first made back in the 1840s. The first combination was simply white wine and seltzer water.
This was done in the northeast of Italy where soldiers wanted to make stronger liquor, like wine, resemble the characteristics of beer with the carbonation and lower alcohol percentage.
Over time, this style of drink remained popular, and different bitters and flavors were added to these spritz drinks. The most popular spritz came from the Campari company. In 2003, Aperol was acquired by the Campari company and the infamous Aperol spritz hit the market and has now spread across the world.
There are many tasty spritzes besides Aperol and Campari. The Hugo spritz (made with elderflower liqueur) and limoncello spritz are some of my favorites. With Italian origins to both limoncello and the spritz cocktail, it has also become a popular cocktail menu item.
While the classic spritz ratio is typically 3 parts prosecco, 2 parts limoncello, and 1 part soda water, I decided to change this ratio. After lots of recipe testing, I found a ratio that allows for a less tart and better balanced cocktail.
Ingredients You Need
Let's learn about the three ingredients needed to make this limoncello drink.
Limoncello: The star of the show in this spritz is limoncello. Limoncello is an incredibly popular Italian liqueur made from lemon peels. This liqueur originated in the south of Italy in the region of Campania.
Loved across the world, consumers may be surprised to hear how simple limoncello production is. Producers will steep lemon peels in a clear and neutral spirit such as Grappa or vodka, then they will sweeten the product by adding sugar.
Prosecco: There are many different sparkling wines across the world. Two of the most famous sparkling wines are prosecco and champagne. The difference ultimately comes down to the quality and accessibility of these wines.
Real champagne can only come from the region of Champagne in France. Prosecco, on the other hand, is produced in much higher volumes and can be made in multiple regions in Northern Italy, most notably Veneto.
Additionally, as with most wines, there are varying qualities within the classifications themselves.
Ultimately, for this cocktail, you want a dry brut to balance out the sweetness of the limoncello. Depending on your budget, you can select the sparking wine that's best for you.
Soda water: Soda water is a broad term for any sparkling or carbonated water. If you see a label stating club soda, seltzer, or soda water, it is good to use for this recipe.
This ingredient provides the cocktail with extra fizz without having to worry about adding another flavor to the mix. If you want a weaker drink, feel free to use more soda water instead of prosecco.
Do not substitute with tonic water. It will give your drink a different flavor due to the quinine (a compound found in cinchona tree bark) and additional sweetener that’s added to it.
Fresh Mint Leaves: These mint leaves are a completely optional garnish. However, cocktail garnishes are important for cocktails because they add an additional bright color to make your drink prettier and add a fresh aroma of mint to elevate the cocktail's complexity.
How To Make This Recipe
This limoncello spritz is one of the easiest cocktails to make, with minimal steps and next to no clean-up.
1. Get a clean wine glass and fill it up with ice. Depending on the temperature of the day, you can choose the quantity of ice you put in.
Using a glass with a set, such as a wine glass, ensures that you don’t have to have your entire hand in contact with the drink. This allows you to sip your ice-cold limoncello drink without the heat of your hand warming it up.
2. Once the ice is in, pour in the limoncello, prosecco, and soda water.
3. Using a bar spoon, give the drink a good stir, allowing all the different ingredients to mix well.
It really is that easy. This cocktail technique is one of the simplest. Known as the ‘build-up’ technique it is as easy as adding the ingredients desired for your drink and giving it a mix.
As always, remember to taste your cocktail before serving. While I found the perfect ratio for my taste, there’s a chance your palate may differ.
Additionally, different prosecco and limoncello brands might make for a different end taste. Because of these factors, give your cocktail a taste and adjust if needed.
4. After you have the perfect tasting limoncello spritz, you can now garnish it with mint leaves.
To maximize the aroma, give your mint leaves a gentle clap with your hands before placing them as a garnish. This technique assists in extracting the oils within the plant and thus helps release the mint aromatics.
This technique works perfectly for other herbs such as lavender, rosemary, sage, and basil. Be careful not to crush too hard on the plant, otherwise, you will damage and bruise the mint.
- If you'd prefer to make this limoncello spritz without prosecco, substitute the prosecco for soda water. This version really highlights the flavor of the limoncello.
- Optionally, for a stronger spritz, add in a shot (1 ounce or 30 ml) of vodka. As long as you don't mind the taste of vodka, this is a great option!
- This drink is perfect to serve with small appetizer bites, especially if you're hosting a summer party.
- If you don't feel like this cocktail is sweet enough for your liking, add some simple syrup.
Simply put, yes, but it's no longer a traditional spritz. You can substitute the prosecco for soda water. This version will make the limoncello flavor pop and it will also lower the amount of alcohol in the drink.
If you want a stronger spritz, add in a shot (1 ounce or 30 ml) of vodka. As long as you don't mind the added taste, this is a great option for a nice strong limoncello spritz with vodka.
Prosecco, limoncello, and soda water are the three ingredients in a classic limoncello spritz. Classic spritz recipes have a 3 (prosecco): 2 (limoncello): 1 (soda water) ratio, but my recipe slightly tweaks the ratio for what I believe is a more well-balanced cocktail.
Yes, simply mix all of the ingredients, then serve in a chilled beverage dispenser. Do not fill the beverage dispenser with ice, since the ice may melt and dilute your cocktail. Instead, add ice in the glasses you’re drinking out of.
Here's the recipe for a large batch that serves 10 people:
2 ½ cups (590 ml) limoncello
5 cups (1 L) chilled prosecco
1 ¼ cups (295 ml) chilled soda water
Unfortunately, this drink cannot be made ahead of time. The issue lies in the carbonated components of the drink. While a good sparkling wine will have persistent effervescence, it will still fade in a matter of minutes. The carbonation will fade even quicker with soda water.
More Cocktail Recipes
Italian Limoncello Spritz (3 Ingredients)
- 2 ounces limoncello
- 4 ounces chilled prosecco
- 1 ounce chilled soda water
- fresh mint leaves for garnish (optional)
- Fill a wine glass with ice.
- Add limoncello, prosecco, and soda water. Stir well using a bar spoon.
- Optionally, garnish with mint leaves.