When you think of Venice, what immediately comes to mind?
A gondolier in a striped shirt and straw hat navigating his craft through a narrow canal?
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 caffé 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.
Just think if we could bottle up all of those images, impressions and feelings and uncork them now and then to be momentarily whisked back to the City of Canals.
Well, believe it or not, you can. Meet the Spritz Veneziano (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 Venetian Spritz 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 Venetian Spritz 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 late-morning AND late-afternoon ombra (aperitif) 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 caffés from Trieste to Trapani any time of the year.
The Venetian Spritz 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 caffé in Venice.
So, how do you prep a Venetian Spritz? Well, if you’ll step into my virtual gondola I’ll demonstrate.
Step-1: In a rocks, tumbler or wine glass, drop in the ice cubes
Step-2: Pour in the Prosecco white wine
Step-3: Add a dash of sparkling or seltzer water
Step-4: Pour in the Aperol
Step-5: Garnish with an orange slice and a green olive
Born out of one war, perfected following another, the Venetian Spritz. It’s the preferred cocktail of La Serenissima, the signature drink of Italy, and the envy of the rest of the world.
Just one sip of a Spreetz and you’ll feel like you’re back in Venice, seated at a small outdoor caffé, idly watching the water traffic glide by as the sun goes down.
©The Palladian Traveler
Great post – love the little history lesson! These little drinks are addictive! Somehow they don’t seem like an alcoholic drink and on a hot summer’s day they are so refreshing.
Cin cin indeed! Great post Tom!