The History of the Spritz Veneziano (Aperol Spritz) - The Daily Grog

Venice isn’t a large city, but it is a walkable one. After meandering through the cobblestone alleys and crossing canals, it’s natural that one becomes a bit peckish. And, of course, thirsty.

Fortunately, Venice has a fantastic culture of bacaros. In these local watering holes, you’ll find Venetians taking respite from the day’s frivolities.

At these bacaros, you’ll find cicchetti (Venetian tapas), and of course, some regional wine. You’ll also find the Spritz Veneziano, sometimes referred to as an Aperol Spritz.

Before going to Italy, I thought of the Aperol Spritz as an Italian-ish drink recently co-opted by the hipsters of Williamsburg, NY. I was happily proven wrong.

After visiting Venice, I learned that the Aperol Spritz is one variety of Spritz Veneziano. This wine-based cocktail originated in the Veneto region.

Walking the narrow alleyways and crossing numerous canals, you see this bright red drink everywhere. It becomes apparent that the Spritz Veneziano, or simply “spritz,” is a critical part of Venetian drinking culture.

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Wandering around the canals of Venice.

After visiting Venice, I learned that the Aperol Spritz is a variety of Spritz Veneziano, which originated in the Veneto region. Furthermore, walking the narrow alleyways and crossing numerous canals, you realize that the Spritz Veneziano, or simply “spritz,” is a critical part of Venetian drinking culture.

If you’re not familiar with the drink, a spritz is a cocktail made from Prosecco, an amaro (most commonly Aperol), and sparkling water. It’s a semi-sweet, slightly bitter cocktail that goes down a bit too easily.

The History of the Spritz Veneziano

Like all tasty beverages, we have to go back in time to understand the Spritz Veneziano.

In the Treaty of Paris in 1814, part of the Napoleonic Wars, the regions of Italy now known as Lombardy and Veneto were combined and ruled by the Habsburg Emperor of Austria.

As soldiers, diplomats, and merchants started to travel through the area, they would stop at some bacaros and sample the local hooch. Like most of Italy, there is no shortage of wine varieties in Veneto; perhaps most notable is Prosecco.

But as the story goes, the Austrians, being used to drinking beer, found the wine to be a tad too strong. So, they would ask the bartenders to add a splash of water (“spritzen,” in German) to dilute the wine.

And thus, the original Spritz Veneziano was born. As the recipe evolved, local amari like Aperol (born in the nearby Padua in 1919) and Select (born Venice in 1920) would be added for some bitterness.

Eventually, Aperol won the marketing efforts, and the Spritz Veneziano became synonymous with the Aperol Spritz. To be fair some of their old ads are pretty cool:

Aperol Spritz Recipe

As you can imagine, the Aperol Spritz isn’t the most complicated drink to make. Some would say the beauty of the spritz is in its simplicity:

3 parts Prosecco
2 parts Aperol (you can also use any other amaro/aperitif like Select, Cynar, Campari, Amaro Nonino, etc.)
A splash of sparkling water

Pour into a wine glass filled with plenty of ice. Garnish with an orange slice and/or a green olive. Then, promptly make another one because the first will be gone soon.

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