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After an extended tour through dark, stiff Prohibition-era cocktails, drinkers are seeking something fresh. And new bar menus are heeding the call by cartwheeling into the warm-weather season with a notably lighter touch.

Low-proof drinks are experiencing a welcome renaissance, threading the needle between the high-proof days when everyone was riffing on the Old-Fashioned and the zero-proof revolution of creating adult beverages without alcohol. The light drinks aren't without alcohol, but still delve into intriguing flavor profiles that take advantage of bitter elements, fresh citrus and syrups to deliver a crisp refresher.

Bitterness is part of the allure of the classic low-proof Aperol Spritz. The Italian drink is popular during aperitivo, the Italians' answer to happy hour. Aperitivo is both a time of day — when low-proof drinks are sipped to kick start the appetite — and the name of a variety of liqueurs often categorized for their bitterness.

But not all low-proof cocktails lean on bitterness. Some utilize mixtures of soft syrups or fruity notes that accentuate the lush flavors of its stronger counterpart, which could include wine, kombucha, vermouth and more. They're made to be patio-weather sippers that don't dehydrate the way a navy-strength gin might.

Backing away from higher-proof bottles also gives bartenders the opportunity to experiment with new flavor realms and to creatively deliver drinks to guests who don't want the headaches of heavy drinking. It's a new frontier of flavor that's ideally suited for summertime.

Three to try

Aperol Spritz Jell-O shot

GusGus, 128 Cleveland Av., St. Paul,

It's the most popular "drink" at this new eatery in St. Paul's Merriam Park neighborhood. A mix of Tattersall bitter orange, blood orange juice and bubbly wine are served in a gold wrapper. It's all the effervesce and bittersweetness of the drink in slurp-able form.

Ruby Rose

Volstead House, 1278 Lone Oak Rd., Eagan,

A mix of Cocchi Americano roso and blanco is heightened with a grapefruit cordial and topped with rosé. "You get these really fun stone fruit and strawberry notes from the Cocchi and it's served with this giant grapefruit wheel," says beverage director Ralena Young.

Who Sencha?

Terzo, 2221 W. 50th St., Mpls.,

Tart, slightly tannic green tea kombucha from Sencha is perfectly balanced by the sweet complexities of Bordiga vermouth. A hint of bitterness comes from the vermouth and a spritz of orange blossom bitters adds an aromatic element. It's a perfect drink to transition from day into evening.