A Splash of Venice in every Glass
When you think of Venice, what immediately comes to mind?
The excitement unfolding at the large market that sprawls out just beyond the steps of the Rialto Bridge?
The hustle and bustle of water traffic up and down the Grand Canal?
One ornate foot bridge after another, in photographic alignment, showing you the way?
The sound of accordion players and violinists serenading in perfect harmony at an open-air café in St. Mark’s Square?
The vivid, personal collages of Venice are endless. Anyone who has ever laid eyes on La Serenissima leaves with at least one indelible scene that he/she carries within for the rest of time.
And, that is the magic that is Venezia.
Well, believe it or not, you can. Meet lo Spritz Veneziano (the Venetian Spritz), the preferred pre lunch and dinner aperitivo (cocktail) of residents around La Laguna (the lagoon) that has spread across the entire Bel Paese and beyond.
Born out of the common practice of spritzen (German for splashing) — diluting glasses of strong Italian wine with splashes of water — during the 19th century occupation of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia by forces of the Austrian Empire, the Spritz Veneziano came to life shortly after World War I when two brothers from Padua pioneered a revolutionary idea of creating a spirit with a low alcohol content of 11%.
Brothers Luigi and Silvio Barbieri unveiled their fluorescent-orange colored liquor, Aperol, at the 1919 Padua Exhibition. Their stylish and versatile creation was an immediate hit and inspired the creation of a cocktail that would symbolize Venice and its storied past and its promising future — a future that would see the Spritz Veneziano become the trend-setting, signature drink of Italy.
Aperol — in the family of amari (bitters) — is an infusion of 30 herbs and roots, bitter orange and some rhubarb thrown in for good measure. With its unique color and bright, zesty flavor, Aperol — when mixed over ice with bubbly Prosecco wine, a splash of seltzer or sparking water, an orange slice and green olive — becomes a liquid, fashion-forward statement that distinctly says VENEZIA, where the anonymous traditionally — no, religiously — take their ombra (shade) — the late morning AND late afternoon aperitivo break.
Not confined to just the warmer months on the calendar, the SPREETZ, as Venetians casually pronounce it, can be seen in the hands of happy-faced skiers and snowboarders all across Italy’s winter scene, or being ordered in big-city bars and small-town cafés from Trieste to Trapani any time of the year.
The Spritz Veneziano varies in taste, ingredients and name from place to place, city to city, and region to region. Rest assured, though, you won’t come any closer to the original 1919 classic than at a bar or café in Venice.
So, how do you prep a Spritz Veneziano? Well, if you’ll step into my virtual gondola I’ll demonstrate.
Step-2: Pour in the Prosecco white wine
Step-3: Add a dash of either Sparkling or Seltzer Water
Step-4: Pour in the Aperol
Step-5: Garnish with an Orange Slice and a Green Olive
Just one sip of a SPREETZ and you’ll feel like you’re back in Venice, seated at a small outdoor café, idly watching the gondolas glide by.
©The Palladian Traveler