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The Venetian Spritz: 4 things you (maybe) don’t know

Here in Venice, the Spritz is much more than a simple drink: it is a ritual, a religion. A habit that first spread throughout the Triveneto and then the rest of Italy, until taking hold abroad where it is now very popular. After all, the Spritz is fresh, low in alcohol, and really easy to prepare. But how was it born? And where? Why is it called like this? We tried to answer these questions in the next few lines. Read on to learn more about the most loved Venetian cocktail.


1. Name and origins of the Spritz

There are some theories on the origins of the Spritz, since its history is still uncertain. One of these says that during the Austrian-Hungarian domination of Venice, between the 18th and the 19th centuries, the local wines were considered too strong in alcohol by the soldiers of the Empire. Therefore they made them dilute with a splash of sparkling water, or seltzer. Hence the name “spritz”, coming from the Austrian verb “spritzen” which means “to spray”.

Another theory dates back to the 16th century, at the time of the Serenissima, when the naval workers of the Arsenal of Venice, called arsenalotti, used to nibble some bread as a snack, combined with a drink made of wine and fresh water.

2. The rise of the modern Spritz

The Spritz we know today was born in the 1920s. The cities of Padua and Venice still contend for the merit, whose respective versions include the addition of Aperol or Select bitters to the mix of white wine and seltzer. In fact, in those years, and precisely in 1919, the Aperol by the Barbieri brothers was presented for the first time at the Padua Fair, while the Select was launched shortly after by the Venetian distillery of the Pilla brothers, soon becoming the most popular drink around the lagoon.

But it was only in the 1970s that the fame of Spritz began to take hold everywhere, first throughout the region and later also in Friuli and Lombardy. Until its consecration as a global aperitif, thanks also to its entry into the list of the official drinks of the International Bartenders Association (IBA) in 2011.


3. Different places, different Spritz

In the last decade, Spritz has become a real must throughout Italy, so much so that beside the classic recipe, many city and regional versions were created. These include, for example, the Pirlo from Brescia, made with still white wine, Campari and lemon zest, or the South Tyrolean Hugo, with prosecco, elderberry syrup, seltz and mint. Other variations involve the addition of different liqueurs, such as Cynar or China Martini. Abroad there are even some “creative” variations of the Spritz, such as the Apple Spritz and the Red Ribbon.

Finally, in some parts of Trentino and Friuli Venezia Giulia, it is still possible to find the Austro-Hungarian recipe of Spritz made with wine and seltzer, called White Spritz. But the best known in the world is one and only: the Venetian Spritz.


4. How to prepare a Spritz

There are basically two versions of the same recipe. The first one, according to the IBA regulations, includes 90 ml of prosecco, 60 ml of Aperol and a splash of soda. The second one, the Venetian one, is prepared with ⅓ of wine, ⅓ of bitter, and ⅓ of sparkling water. The procedure is simple: just pour the first two ingredients into a glass ‒ a low tumbler or a stem glass ‒ filled with ice cubes, then add the sparkling water, and garnish with a slice of orange and an olive.

You can choose the bitter you want when ordering. The most common are Aperol, with a sweet taste and a beautiful bright orange colour; Campari, ruby red and a little more bitter; finally, Select, the Venetian bitter, bright red with sweet and citrusy notes. Which one is your favourite?

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