The Spaghett Is Your Low-ABV Drink of Summer
A simple beer cocktail that’s also easy to convert to non-boozy variations
I’m a bit of a beer snob, so I was skeptical a couple of summers ago when a bartender friend of mine offered to make me a beer cocktail with Miller High Life. Even when it’s 90 degrees out, I’m more apt to reach for a 6% ABV hop bomb than a light industrial lager.
But this drink won me over. He instructed me to take a good swig from my bottle, then to pour in a good slug of Aperol and a squeeze of lemon. It was great! Refreshing, light, a little tart and a touch bitter, it offered the elements of a spritz in an even more casual package; you don’t even need a glass.
The drink is called the Spaghett and its popularity traces back to a 2019 article by Alex Delaney, who encountered it on the menu at Wet City Brewing in Baltimore, Maryland. (Wet City’s menu spells it “Spagett” but “Spaghett” is far more common; like the “e” in whiskey, the “h” in Spaghett is somewhat arbitrary.) Since then, variations have popped up using other bitter aperitifs and lagers; this is a winning formula that’s clearly ripe for remixing.
This summer I’ve been taking the drink in a slightly different direction, realizing that it’s also a prime candidate for remaking as a non-alcoholic cocktail; the rise of quality non-alcoholic beers and spirits makes this is an obvious match. A particular advantage here is that the recipe doesn’t require any typical distilled base spirits like gin, tequila or whiskey, which producers struggle to replicate in a zero-proof format. In contrast, aperitifs that are made by macerating bitter orange peels and other botanicals more easily translate to non-alcoholic drinks.
Lyre’s is the most well-known producer of non-alcoholic aperitif spirits in the United States. I’ve been making Spaghetts with their Italian Orange and Italian Spritz, both of which fit the bill nicely. The Orange is a little fruitier and juicier, while the Spritz offers a moderately sharper edge. You have lots of options for non-alcoholic beer too, and a good one comes from industry leader Athletic Brewing. Their Athletic Lite fits the flavor profile and with only 25 calories; it’s one you could drink all day.
Now, it should be said that the Spaghett is a low-alcohol cocktail no matter how you make it. Miller High Life is only 4.6% ABV, higher than some mass-market lagers but lower than a lot of craft beers. And Aperol is only 11% ABV, about as low as liquor gets. Even at full strength, this is a drink made for summer sessions. But a fun thing about the Spaghett is that you have a range of options between the original full-strength version and a completely non-alcoholic one; in the middle, you can mix things up with a non-alcoholic beer and real Aperol, or a non-alcoholic aperitif and a regular beer.
I’ve been trying these out with Aperol and non-alcoholic beers like Athletic’s Upside Dawn golden ale and Best Day Brewing’’s Kolsch. With just an ounce of Aperol stretched out with twelve ounces of non-alcoholic beer, the total ABV is negligible, but you still get quite a full-flavored beverage, perhaps one even better for long sessions on the porch or in the backyard than the original recipe.
When you decide to make a Spaghett for yourself, choose your own adventure with the spirits and beers, alcoholic or non-alcoholic. The recipe is unfussy and can be unmeasured; feel free to vary the amounts by personal preference, but you might choose to use a little more non-alcoholic spirit to help the flavor punch through. It’s also up to you whether to serve straight from the bottle or can, pour (or drink) a bit to make room or put everything in a glass. You really can’t go wrong.
- 1 – 1.5 oz Aperol or a non-alcoholic aperitif, such as Lyre’s Italian Orange
- .75 – 1 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1 can or bottle of Miller High Life or non-alcoholic beer, such as Athletic Lite
Serve in a bottle, can or glass, and enjoy all summer long.
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