Venetian Spritz Recipe (or, once an ombra…)

spritz_nan_mcelroy.jpg I call it the National Drink of Venice.

The Venetian Spritz is not, shall we say, an “important” thing. Drink. Whatever. It’s red, for crying out loud, and composed of any unassuming white wine, sparkling water, and your choice of mixer: Aperol, Select, or bitter (Campari, SanBitter or even the herby Cynar). Although the first Spritzes filtered down from Austria and were made with white wine and seltzer only, the newer, flashier red version is a Campari creation that has become a Venetian (and Veneto) habit: as one of its many Facebook-dedicated pages states, is “not just a drink, but a way of life.”

That appealing shade of florescent orangish-red, however, makes the Spritz extraordinarily entertaining; when you witness late afternoon Venetian sunlight angling through the glass, firing it the color of icy embers, ti viene la voglia – it just makes you want one. This is by design of course, and a quantifiable phenomenon. Ask anyone.

P1000700.JPGIt would seem obvious, then, that you should order at least one Spritz during your stay, if for no other reason than to stare in compania, to hang out and blend in. It’s even safe to “try this at home” (although I must to warn you: it won’t be the same).

Thanks in no small part to furious commercial efforts on the part of Campari (who also produce Aperol and Cynar, fancy that), this unpretentious, borderline silly libation is aiming to be the National Drink of Italy. But the Spritz (or ‘Spriss’ in Venessiàn) will always be best enjoyed on its home turf, perhaps Al Chioscchetto on the Zattere, as the sun retreats and the Giudecca Canal sloshes vigorously before you, while everyone at surrounding tables sips theirs, chattering away, catching up with a friend they’ve connected with by chance or by appointment, in who-knows what language. Maybe there’s live music; maybe not.

The Spritz fa il suo effetto (has its effect) on most everyone who tries it; and the result is una marea of requests for the recipe; and although I’d rather recommend a good wine, it just makes sense to post it once and for all. Evvia.

My favorite Venetian Spritz recipe is stamped on the canvas bags made by women in Venetian prison – it’s one of the ways those inside support themselves. Keep an eye out yourself for kiosks located in a number of campi in the city, selling these charming, handy bags in a variety of designs.

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“Official” Spritz recipe

INGREDIENTS:

1 part white wine

1 part Aperol (medium sweet) OR Select (less sweet) OR Campari or San Bitter

1 part seltzer/sparkling water (it helps if you can blast it into the glass)

Combine the above with

a little ice,

an olive, and

a slice of orange / lemon / lemon

respectively, according to your choice of aperitif mixer.

For maximum effect, add late afternoon sunlight and

consume near a large body of water.

If you do try making them yourself, let me know how they turn out, won’t you?

___________

ONE FINAL NOTE: Don’t forget, when ordering your Spritz, you must specify the mixer. For example, “Spritz con Aperol,” “Spritz with Select” (pronounced SELect), etc. If you don’t, you’ll be asked which you prefer.

* Aperol (made by Campari) has now decided a Spritz is made by combining it with Prosecco, which is convenient in that it supports Prosecco production and can reduce the number of Spritz ingredients to two (or creates a too-fizzy concoction). The hold-outs among us prefer the original, and to enjoy our Prosecco in purezza, by itself.

31 thoughts on “Venetian Spritz Recipe (or, once an ombra…)

    1. nan

      Oh, just give it time. Do let us know if you start seeing radioactive-looking cocktails appearing on bar tables at aperitivo time… : )

      Reply
  1. Lisa

    I just lived in Padova for 3 months, don’t forget the Spritz Azzurro!! It makes everyone laugh, but it is a real drink that they serve in Piazza delle signori. Made with blue Curacao (I think thats the name of it) it tastes similar to a normal spritz. Maybe a little more bitter than your average aperol! And don’t forget the patatine…they just compliment the spritz like you won’t believe!

    Reply
  2. Lola

    Ciao Nan,

    glad you liked the Note on Le Isole Lagunari published on Italian Notebook, and thanks for adding your precious advice!

    I was going to be in Venezia for the Festival, but eventually didn’t make it. Damn, I was hoping to meet you for a Spritz! 😉

    Lola

    Reply
  3. Karen Cole

    A friend just told me to check out your blog. Perfect to get here for a spritz recipe.

    I however, will probably not get past the ones that I have had at Al Ponte Antico, a small hotel, made by Matteo, the owner, sitting on the terrace overlooking the Grand Canal….and unfortunately, the graffiti on the Rialto. If you can, stop by and ask him to make you one.

    Reply
    1. nan

      I do know the Hotel Al Ponte Antico and its charming terrace. Everyone has their preferred Spritz-consumption locale…

      Would you stop by there the next time you’re back, and let us know if it’s any different than the canvas bag recipe (I refuse to make mine with Prosecco, though…or pay more than €2,50. I’m a true testarda (hard head) ;> ).

      Reply
  4. Ken

    I do love a pre-dinner spritz when I’m in north Italy. The first time I saw it was in Verona. Every single local I could see was drinking a mysterious orange drink, so when the waiter came to take my order I just pointed at one and said ‘cosi’. He noted my vague grasp of Italian and didn’t go ask for any more details.

    Reply
  5. Jacques

    I love the idea of its being the “National Drink”, quite an appropriate title.

    The Prosecco version is not to be spurned while untested (they usually use a slightly less expensive prosecco anyhow), and they still tend to add the selz on the prosecco version as well, most places. It makes a wonderful Spriss, but I do agree that more than €2.50 means you are most likely in a tourist trap, and should run.

    DO BEWARE of spritz (lower case “S” imitation drinks) outside Venice, as they are often/usually overpriced, underaccompanied, and taste just “wrong” for someone raised to recognize the “real thing”. I recently was cajoled by a friend in Milan to have a spritz sitting near, but not even at the Navigli, and almost spewed the first taste all over the table, but manners forced me to drink the whole ice-filled, watered down concoction, as she was so happily paying €7 for the privilege of offering me that “red thing” (my terms) that she “knew was from my (adopted) home town”. She loved it, and ordered a second, but I feigned it going to my head too quickly to avoid undergoing that torture twice.

    Reply
  6. Krista

    I’ve looked everywhere for Select and can’t seem to find it. It was my favorite spritz while in Venice and although i know it won’t be the same in the states, I’d love to make it at home. Any suggestions as to where I can get this?

    Reply
  7. ScheckTrek

    I Googled Al Ponte Antico’s spritz recipe, and it brought me to your blog, where the hotel is mentioned a couple of times. It prompted me to write to Matteo (the hotel owner) and ask for their recipe. If you’ve ever stayed there, you know Matteo is a very gracious and generous man, and he wrote back right away. Be forewarned, it is a Prosecco version, but I’m okay with that.

    Al Ponte Antico’s Spritz Recipe:

    2/3 Prosecco, 1/3 Aperol, a large quantity of ice cubes and a slice of orange. Serve in a large glass.

    Can’t wait to try it and see if it tastes the same when we’re not overlooking the Grand Canal from their lovely terrace. I’m sure it will bring back some wonderful memories.

    Reply
    1. Living Venice

      It’s a lovely hotel (sister to the equally renowned Locanda Orseolo); I included it in Fodor’s lodgings for the recent Venice update.

      No offense to the gentile Matteo, but I still prefer the non-Prosecco version (and my Prosecco in a glass by itself). 😉

      To each his own Spritz, however – a very democratic drink, I think.

      Reply
  8. Paul

    For Venice lovers living in France, Aperol is now widely available in Nicolas retail stores. It’s Spritz Time in Paris!

    Reply
  9. Helen

    Just back from Venice where we of course had spritzers everywhere. Just googled for the recipe to make them NOW in my backyard in DC. Thanks.

    Reply
  10. JP Wolfe

    I have been blessed with the great opportunity of living & traveling in Italy for the past 6 years. I have enjoyed Spritz in just about every locale. The only time I prefer Prosecco Spritz (Aperol is my choice) is in Rome where they only have partially fizzy water. It’s a lovely drink anywhere in Italy, but I can see how more appealing it would be in Venice with the water reflection. I do make these at home as do my friends but it’s not quite the same, probably because the atmosphere of being amongst others with different languages have come together to enjoy a common drink. I hope I’ll be able to find Aperol when I return to the U.S.

    Reply
  11. Leanda

    In the UK Sainsburys have started stocking Aperol! I haven’t seen it in my local store yet, but it’s definitely available online and featured in their magazine this month. We have previously been buying bottles at the COOP in Venice and bringing them back, as the only other places in the UK were expensive independent off-licences. It’s still not as cheap as in Italy at Sainsburys, but its much better value and we don’t loose baggage allowance on the flight home (more room for Fragolini!)

    Reply
    1. Living Venice Post author

      Aperol is a lovely color — but I’ve been drinking it with Cynar lately…not so sweet, nor bitter. Very pleasant, actually. (I’m actually such a wine person that I usually bail on the Spritz, but please don’t tell anyone.

      Thanks for sharing, I bet more than a few folks are surfing to Sainsbury’s online right now…

      Reply
  12. Mark

    Very popular in Alto Adige this summer – where it’s called a “Veneziano.” Interesting that it has an Italian name where they speak mostly German and a German/Austrian name where they speak Italian!

    Reply
  13. Michael

    I have been going to the vogalonga in Venezia now for 26 years as the only American Gondola Racing team to do so. I was introduced the spritz by a gondolier in 1984! I thought it was awful. Since then I have become addicted!
    If anyone is ever in Long Beach California, find me and I will take you for one.

    A theory………. So many things have gotten sooooo expensive in Venice over the past 30 years but the spritz is still the best deal in town. I think because of the bitterness and animinity, the tourists stay away from it and the Venetians can keep their tradition at a locals only price without the bartender having to create a local and a tourist price.
    Beware though, they are addictive, especially the bitter!

    Michael

    Reply
  14. Vanessa

    Lovely post, but I have to point out a spritz and an ombra are two different things. The spritz is the drink you describe in your recipe, while an ombra is a glass of wine, usually served in a small and humble glass. The name ombra (shadow) seems to originate from the shadows cast by the bell tower in San Marco square. The wine merchants would store the wine “all’ombra” or in the shadow to keep it cool.

    Reply
  15. Nico Unterstaller

    Wonderful summer-drink,either with prosecco or without.Campari or Aperol,icecubes and yes,that afternoonsun – thats life!
    Very easy to make at home, thanks to your recipe.
    Cheers!

    Reply
  16. Kandy

    Nan,

    Ciao! I need the recipe for a Scorpino, which my husband and I enjoyed while staying on the Lido. Could you help with this? Grazie mille!

    Reply
  17. Sonia

    I just returned from Venice. I saw a group of Venetians drinking this and ordered it. I am so glad that I did!

    Reply
  18. Bernie

    I had my first on a blistering day in Verona in a small bar overlooking the river. Absolutely perfect ! And very thirst-quenching and refreshing. I’ll be making them back home here in the UK if the current “heat-wave” continues.

    Reply
  19. Jeffrey

    Hello…

    While on vacation in Italy having lunch in a really nice outside Cafe, I noticed two drop dead gorgeous women sipping on these really ” pretty ” orange drinks. The next afternoon I managed to order one of those orange drinks with my lunch and it was so good… that I had 2 of them.Excellent summer drink. I also had two in Venice and 2 more down in Capri. I liked the Roman version best. Now today, I going to try my home version. Caio

    Reply

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