The race to find the best summer drink is over before it even began. Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to meet the NASCAR Spritz.
The kicky blend of light beer, Aperol, and a lime twist comes to our city via Chad Arnholt, bartender at Trick Dog and co-founder of beverage consulting company Tin Roof. It's all you could ask out of a summer beverage: light and refreshing enough to drink all day long, with the Aperol and lime giving the beer some nice tartness and complexity. It's become my go-to afternoon sipper.
The NASCAR Spritz hails from Boston, a relic of Arnholt's years as a bartender at Citizen Public House during the dark days when Bud Light Lime cocktails were all the rage.
Its exact origins are a bit murky. "There is some controversy here, or quarreling amongst friends about who was the first to name it, or drink it, or pin down its timeless recipe," Arnholt writes in an email. What is clear is that he and his buddies behind the bar started to put shots of Aperol in their BLLs, then eventually added the drink to the Citizen menu as the NASCAR Spritz. (The name is a cheeky take on an Aperol Spritz, which mixes the bitter Italian liqueur with sparkling wine and fizzy water.)
Then Arnholt moved to San Francisco and the drink got a West Coast makeover. "Much in the way California's use of fresh ingredients revolutionized food and beverage once upon a time, my arrival in San Francisco fundamentally altered this classic beverage for the better," he writes. Out went Bud Light Lime, in went Miller High Life (the champagne of beers).
Since I was introduced to the drink one fateful afternoon a few weeks back, I've been on a mission to spread the gospel around town. My favorite variation on Arnholt's original recipe came from Jen Ackrill of Rye, who mixed up Tecate, an ounce of Aperol, a half ounce of fresh lime juice, and a grapefruit twist in a pint glass -- the grapefruit played off the bitterness of the Aperol, and the lime juice brightened everything up.
But Arnholt's improved version of his original, mixed right in the High Life bottle, is still the best for its sheer portability and unfussiness. The NASCAR Spritz is at heart a democratic drink, optimal for park or stoop consumption, though thanks to the Aperol it also fits in at a craft cocktail bar like Trick Dog. Order it at your local watering hole and perhaps someday we'll run into each other, each with our crimson beverage in hand, and cheers to the new drink of the summer.
Improved NASCAR Spritz
Created by Chad Arnholt of Trick Dog
Miller High Life + shot of Aperol + lime peel
-Start with one Miller High Life (bottled), a bottle of Aperol with a speed pourer installed, and a lime.
-Peel the lime in a spiral starting at the top point and ending at the bottom point, maintaining one long ribbon
-Open the High Life by twisting the bottle cap, caring not to jostle the bottle or encourage foaming
-Set the cap aside
-Pour out one shot of High Life (or for a friend drink right from the bottle)
-Pour Aperol into the beer bottle as to top off to the previous level of fullness
-Coil the lime peel in a tight spiral with the leathery peel facing out, caring to squeeze the peel as you coil
-Starting with the tail of the lime peel spiral, slowly unravel the coil into the neck of the High Life bottle
-Recap using the original cap and slowly invert until all ingredients mix
-Uncap and hand to a buddy
-Cheers with set aside shot of High Life