‘Spagett’: A cheap, regional crowd-pleasing cocktail

To let loose in America means just about one thing: to grab a cocktail or a cold one and get “crunk” (as the middle-aged folk say). Following a week of conference calls, classes or cleaning tables for the next customer, everyone’s aching to get to that Friday evening happy hour. But it seems like drink prices over the years mimic a pile of foam atop an IPA draft: that is, they grow unpleasantly and uncontrollably while all we can do is slouch in our stools and watch from across the bar. And signing the bill at the close of our tabs is often enough to take the “happy” out of happy hour.

Enter the Spagett. A cocktail rarely takes hold of the food scene, and yet this one offers everything consumers love about drinking: it’s delicious, it’s cheap and it’s a fresh take on cocktail composition. Better yet, its simple three-ingredient construction makes it easy to build at home. Best yet, you don’t even need a glass to do so.

What makes this cocktail unique is its composition, which is unlike any cocktail out there. Part lemon juice, part Aperol (an Italian bitters with hints of orange, vanilla and herbs), part Miller High Life and served in that famous “Champagne of Beers” bottle, it’s one of the only drinks on the scene that fuses beer — especially a beer considered more low-brow — with typical cocktail ingredients.

The Spagett originated at Wet City Brewery in Baltimore, Maryland and was created by bartender Reed Cahill. Despite the Spagett’s ingredients being strange enough to raise an eyebrow or two, PJ Sullivan, the brains behind Wet City Brewery, recalls that Cahill definitely created the drink on purpose.

“We named it Spagett because it’s a bastardized Aperol Spritz, which is an elegant Italian cocktail. And the character in the ‘Tim & Eric’ skit is a weirdo eating spaghetti,” Sullivan said, noting that an Aperol Spritz is typically built with actual champagne instead of The Champagne of Beers. “[It] seemed to characterize the cocktail and idea of the cocktail perfectly.”

Emily Ahrens had been a bartender for eight years at Lincoln Station in Lincoln Park when she first heard of the Spagett.

“Someone ordered it as a ‘poor man’s spritz,’ which I found hilarious,” Ahrens said, recalling the occasion.

The nickname may sound unappealing or down-putting, but it’s actually a precise encapsulation of Spagett’s main goal. For a cocktail to be sought-out for its low price is a feat in and of itself — but the Spagett is also unconventional and tasty.

“I think people like it so much because Aperol and lemon are super refreshing together, so then the High Life kind of mellows it out nicely,” Ahrens said.

Wet City Brewery believes in the happiness of happy hours, but it takes that concept a step further, applying the atmosphere to the general, day-to-day tone of the business. While many restaurants go the haughty, exorbitant route when creating their menus and aesthetics, Wet City is more in touch with the working class’s inclination towards a humble, innovative space to take the edge off a week of challenges.

“We try to keep the same spirit in our food, drinks and beer,” Sullivan said. “High quality while not taking ourselves too seriously. We want our offering to be fun.”

Bonnie Parille, a DePaul student who prefers to drink on a budget, enjoys the ease and affordability of the Spagett. Since cocktail ingredients can be so expensive, she found it difficult to justify drinking anything other than beer . However, when she found the Spagett on a restaurant menu, she realized that making cocktails doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult.

“I already buy High Life, so I just needed to add lemon juice and Aperol to my list,” Parille said. “I like that I don’t have to drink just beer or cheap wine anymore. It’s more impressive.”

To anyone who loves it, the Spagett is a testament to innovation and accessibility. Gone are the days when the best drink also happens to be the most expensive. And in their place rises an era of crossing traditional ingredient castes in the name of flavor. Who’s to say something beautiful can’t come from absurdity?

“We did think the idea was a bit ridiculous at conception, but the outcome was amazing, so the rest is history,” Sullivan said. “It was on our cocktail menu from day one. We’ve been open for five years.”

Try the original Spagett at Wet City Brewery in Baltimore, Maryland, or ask your local bartender to give it a go next time you visit a happy hour. Find Wet City Brewery on Instagram: @Wet_City.


How to make a Spagett:


  1. Pour 2 oz. of Miller High Life out of the bottle.
  2. Pour 1 oz. of lemon juice into the Miller High Life Bottle.
  3. Pour 1 oz. of Aperol into the Miller High Life Bottle.
  4. Drink.