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.
It 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.
“Official” Spritz recipe
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.