What’s up with that?
Well, the Spritz Veneziano is the most famous drink in Venice. recognized by the IBA and with an international recipe for anybody who would like to add it to the official drink-list to respect. You see it everywhere and there isn’t a bar in the Serenissima who doesn’t serve it, with a slice of orange, an olive, with Aperol, with Campari or some of the other internationally less known bitter brands. The Venetians love it, and if you should come by some bar-table outside where a group of Gondoliers has taken refuge, then 9 out of 10 of them would be drinking just that… A Spritz.
Venice as the whole of northern Italy was held by Austria at the beginning of the 19th century. After Napoleon lost at Waterloo in 1815 and the kingdom of France collapsed the Austrians were given practically the whole Veneto and Lombardia. Officially it was a separate country, the kingdom of Lombardy – Venetia, but in reality, it was controlled by the Austrians and at least partially oppressed by them. Anyway, the Austrians, like the Italians and everybody else too for that matter, loved to drink wine. But in Italy, we have more sun than they have in Austria, and the wine is stronger (… I was going to write better, but my sense of humility prevented me.). The Austrian soldiers started diluting the wine with water. Then they discovered that carbonated water splashed – spritzt is the word in German – into the wine was even better.
And so the Spritz was born. Not much of a drink you might think, wine and water. Well, I have to agree. Still, some of my friends in f. ex. Trieste and Padova still insist that the true Spritz is white wine, still, not sparkling, and soda water. I usually tell them, Yes Ok, you may be right, but that’s a lousy Spritz.
Well, fortunately enough the Venetians took it to new levels, They introduced Select, a Venetian bitter invented by the company Fratelli Pilla & Co at Castello, in 1920. It was a completely new ingredient to the beverage and with it, the Spritz was almost ready for the big public,
Ok, my friends in Padova would say: “Hey, We were first because we invented Aperol already in 1919. True, the famous Aperol was ready the year before, and the classical Spritz in Padova is done with Aperol while the Venetians do it with Select. Anyway, it was in those years the recipe became what it is today… Such as? What is the traditional recipe?
It’s; 1/3 Prosecco
1/3 Sparkling water
1/3 Bitter of some sort
Instead of Prosecco, you could use any other Italian white wine with bubbles. Normally it’s more expensive with Prosecco and it could be specified, A Spritz Veneziano made with Prosecco costs this, a Spritz made with some other wine costs something else.
Anyway, it’s as easy as that. Then you have all the special secrets that only the Bar-men know… Which ingredient goes first, which goes last, and which goes in the middle. If it’s shaken or stirred. Actually it shouldn’t be nor shaken, nor stirred, just mixed.
Often it’s served with a slice of orange, and that is perfect with a Spritz – Aperol since the Aperol is made with bitter orange as a prominent ingredient. It’s also orange in color. With Campari, the decoration is often an olive. The drink should be topped with a few ice cubes. Ice that, especially in the hot season, don’t last long sitting outside in the Venetian tropical summer heat. It can be served with a slice of lemon. That’s regarded as unorthodox but as the drink has been around for 200 years a lot of variants to the original recipe exist.
First of all: The recipe of the Spritz Veneziano documented by the IBA (international bartenders association, for those of who didn’t know that…) is as follows:
2 oz Prosecco
1½ Aperol (..or some other bitter)
Soda water, enough to get the correct mix.
Then there is the Hugo
2 oz sparkling wine
1 ½ oz Saint German
1 ½ oz Soda water
4 mint leaves
Then there is the Madame
2 oz sparkling wine
¾ oz Campari
¾ oz Cointreau
1 ½ oz Soda water with this drink a slice of orange is correct.
Just take Midori instead of Aperol… Slice of orange
2 oz Sparkling wine
1 ½ oz white Vermouth
1 ½ oz Ginger Ale
Ginger Served with a slice of orange
And many, many others…
The best Spritz Veneziano of them all.
If you want to drink it in Venice like the Venetians and be really traditional in every sense of the word, then maybe Select is the way to go. Aperol is for the Padovani, Campari is a more international flavor, but Select is Venetian. On the other hand, even the Venetians have an alternative, and many of them prefer the alternative to Select. It’s called Cynar. It’s a Bitter that is a little more bitter and less sweet than Select. It also has a darker, brownish color. I like it better than all the others, so please try it out. You should try them all anyway and make up your own mind.
Aperol is very marketed in the USA. It’s a major brand, as is Campari. And Campari is actually the owner of Aperol, so they don’t really compete on the same market. They collaborate. Select is produced by Montenegro though… And Cynar? Well, they’re also Campari, so it’s kind of monopolized.
When is the best time for a Spritz Veneziano?
It’s like the old publicity for the beer Tuborg: Two vagrants meet at the corner of the street. One says to the other: Hey, Perikles… Can you tell me, when does a Tuborg taste the best? The other answers: … Every time.
A Spritz is an all-day drink. You can sit down at the bar before lunch, preferably outside, order a Spritz and have some peanuts with it.
You can have it at the bar before the theater, or after the theater. It’s a bit like a coffee, it’s something to offer your friends without any presumptions or big deals. If someone helped you out, you can offer a spritz. If you go to the exclusive Enoteca it may mean something the other may have to return the kindness somehow, but a Spritz at the bar doesn’t really require anything. It’s neutral.
One word of advice though. You don’t taste the alcohol. The fragrance of bitter and the sparkling water makes it seem like a lemonade. But it’s not. So go easy.
And in Venice they don’t say Spritz like Sprits, they say Spriss without the t. Like everything else, they have their own way of doing things.