Effortless style. That’s what the Italian word sprezzatura roughly translates to and it’s what the team behind Sprezza — the latest canned alcoholic spritzer to hit the market — hope to offer people.
A few years ago Kia Karimi, the vice president of Seattle-based Scrappy’s Bitters and Miles Thomas, the founder of the company, were looking to get into the canned cocktail business when a serendipitous meeting with Giancarlo Mancino of Italy’s Mancino Vermouth occurred.
Thomas and Karimi were in Hong Kong meeting with their Asia distributor when they had lunch with Giancarlo, the first step in initiating the whole process of Sprezza.
Mancino eventually suggested they should collaborate — something many folks say but do not always act on, but this time was different. Thomas was playing with the idea of doing a spritz in a can which Mancino was attracted to, thanks to research he conducted when starting his vermouth company.
Back in the 1950s, Mancino found that small vermouth houses would carbonate the drink and package it in Prosecco bottles around the holidays. It was the original ready-to-drink beverage, which inspired Thomas for what he was wanting to make for the American market today.
The next step was an importer to connect the dots between the American and Italian companies. “They have the canning, the facilities, the bitters, Giancarlo has the vermouth but I have the importing company,” says Leith Shenstone, owner of Fasel Shenstone Imports. “I’m able to import all the stuff from Italy here [to Seattle] so we can have authentic Italian base.”
Shenstone, Karimi and Thomas each emphasize that, unlike other spritzers and non-beer or wine products on the market, they made Sprezza with components that were created to be the best they could be as stand-alone products.
“It’s kind of like ‘do one thing and do it well’ mentality,” Karimi says. “Really focus all our energy on the vermouth, the bitters, all that stuff and then this becomes easy for us because we’ve already done the hard work.”
The drink itself is simple: mineral water, Scrappy’s Bitters and Mancino Vermouth. But it was the balance of these three ingredients that Thomas took great pains in getting right.
“Every little tweak has a big impact [so] there’s nowhere for anything to hide, it’s not like a 15 ingredient drink,” he details. “So getting the perfect balance was a long trial and error process of research and development.”
Part of the Italian tradition the team wanted to encapsulate with the drink was the ability to drink these spritzers all day long.
“For me what’s funny is this creation of the ‘seltzer category’ completely missed the fact that the perfect low ABV drink already exists in Europe,” Shenstone says. “It’s the southern European aperitivo, it’s the spritz, it’s amaro and soda water.”
One of the important things to the Sprezza team was to make the drink something “easily crushable,” where you could drink a bunch throughout the day at the beach with your friends. The beverage also isn’t specifically marketed at a target audience either, like the gluten-intolerant, those seeking for low ABV or even Italophiles — Shenstone says this drink is for everyone.
“The first sip can be delicious, halfway through the can can be great but when you get to the bottom of that can is your palate in position to be able to want to reach for another one or is it exhausted?” Karimi asks.
To start, Sprezza is launching two products: a Bianco and Rosso, made with white and red vermouth respectively. The launch is just in the beginning stages but you’ll eventually be able to find the product across the United States in premium grocery stores as well as several local Seattle establishments.
“We didn’t make this bitters for the RTD [ready-to-drink], Giancarlo didn’t make Mancino for the RTD, we made them to be the best in their respective categories regardless of the application,” Karimi says. “How they’re coming together in this form is a really rare combination that’s going to set us up for success I believe.”