Spritz Campari: Milan’s Passionate Red Cocktail

It’s no secret that Venetians, well-known or anonymous, cherish their hometown favorite and, purportedly, Italy’s signature aperitivo (cocktail), the Spritz Veneziano (Venetian Spritz).

Made with the Fratelli Barbieri ‘s secret bitter Aperol, a healthy amount of Prosecco, a splash of soda water, one green olive and a slice of orange, the Venetian Spritz is THE drink of La Serenissima.

Spritz Campari | ©Tom Palladio Images

On the other side of the country, due west of the Lagoon, is Milan, the Bel Paese’s button-down business and banking hub in the Lombardia region AND an epicenter for world fashion.

Like Venice, Milan, the other half of the old Regno Lombardo-Veneto (Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia), was under Austrian rule (House of Habsburg-Lorraine) for quite some time during the 18th and 19th centuries and fell victim to the occupier’s practice of spritzen (German for splashing), diluting strong Italian wine with splashes of water.

If Venice covets Aperol, then the same can be said of Milan and its beloved Campari.

Spritz Campari | ©Tom Palladio Images

An alcoholic liqueur, Campari is in the family of amari (bitters) and is an infusion of approximately 80 herbs, plants and fruit. Supposedly, only three members of the Campari inner circle know the exact ingredients that go into this bitter, and they’re not talkin’.

Campari was created back in 1860 by Gaspare Campari, a master drink maker who honed his craft serving up his creations to the elite of Turin. Eventually, he brought his talent, the secret bitter and his namesake brand to Milan where he launched the family business (restaurant, bar and wine shop) under a large Campari sign in the iconic Galleria di Vittorio Emanuele II, the world’s oldest enclosed shopping mall named in honor of the first king of the Kingdom of Italy.

Spritz Campari | ©Tom Palladio Images

Campari‘s distinctive red color was an immediate hit after its first pour and gave rise to the national pastime of drinking aperitivi — a simple excuse to join up with friends or business partners at a local watering hole to discuss the day’s events, close a deal or plot the future. Yes, we can all give thanks to Signor Campari for this refreshing daily ritual.

Today, Campari, the “red passion,” is the essential ingredient for a host of internationally-known aperitivi: Negroni, l’Americano, Garibaldi, Spritz and other short and long drinks. We’ll get to them all, one glass at a time, starting with the crowd-pleasing Spritz Campari.


Spritz Campari | ©Tom Palladio Images

Step-1: Fill a large wine glass with ice

Step-2: Pour in the Campari

Step-3: Add the water

Step-4: Add the Prosecco

Step-5: Float the orange slice on top

Step-6: Cin Cin!

Milan and Venice, once united under a single kingdom during Austrian rule, now separated by two bottles of bitter. If given the choice, which one would you choose, Aperol or Campari?

©The Palladian Traveler



  1. Campari for me…and those Milanese would be shocked my spritz is ice, Campari, a dash of orange juice a slice of orange and then soda on a hot summer’s day

  2. I would have to go with Campari, only because I had never heard of Aperol until today (I know, shameful). We will be spending next weekend in a funky little Sierra Nevada town, and I will test the bartender and ask for a Campari Spritz and just see how good they are 🙂

    1. Jennifer — As the writer, I can’t takes sides and choose one over the other. So, I like them both, but, truth be told, I do lean a bit more towards Venice and Aperol.

Leave a Reply