It was only invented around ten years ago, but already the elderflower spritzer known as Hugo – or ‘Ugo’ in Italy – has become the classic warm-weather long drink in bars from Milan to Munich, and its fame is quickly spreading.
The genealogy of the mix is hotly disputed: most of the origin legends trace it back to a bartender called Roland Grüber, who goes by the professional name ‘AK’, from the largely German-speaking Alto Adige region in the north of Italy. But AK’s Hugo used lemon balm cordial rather than elderflower – which has since become the cocktail’s defining characteristic.
Perhaps, as so often, the Hugo arose out of the zeitgeist, with several people contributing, in a series of small steps, to today’s canonical recipe. Le Sirenuse’s head barman Robert Wimmer suggests one more tweak to make Hugo “the perfect, refreshing summer drink”: a garnish of summer berries.
But whether or not AK was Hugo’s biological father, we love his explanation for the choice of name, as given to German newspaper Der Spiegel: “Why Hugo? Because I liked it better than Otto”.
A few ice cubes
25g Elderflower liqueur – for example St Germain
50g soda water – for example Fever Tree
A sprig of mint
A small handful of summer berries
The drink is built in the glass. Choose a standard-sized red wine glass, add the ice cubes, and pour in the elderflower liqueur. Add the soda water – either from a syphon or a bottle – and top up with a good Prosecco (you may find you need less than 5cl or 50g – this is very much a question of taste).
Garnish with mint and summer berries – some red and some purple or black for maximum colour contrast.
Pictures: © Roberto Salomone