The History of the Spritz Veneziano (Aperol Spritz)

The History of the Spritz Veneziano (Aperol Spritz)

I'll be honest, before going to Italy, I assumed the Aperol Spritz was an Italian-ish drink recently co-opted by the hipsters of Williamsburg, NY, and primarily reserved for tourists trying to fulfill their Eat, Pray, Love dreams. I was happily proven wrong.

During the 1800s, the Hasburg empire occupied the Veneto region as a part of the Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia. As soldiers, diplomats, and merchants started to travel through the area, they would stop at some bacari and sample the local hooch. Like most of Italy, there is no shortage of wine varieties in Veneto; perhaps most notable is Prosecco.

As the story goes, the Austrians, being used to drinking beer and lighter styles of wine, found the wine of the Veneto region 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 in 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:

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 bacari, local Venetian watering holes. At a bacaro, you’ll find cicchetti (Venetian tapas) and, of course, some regional wine. In about 30 seconds at a bacaro, you'll also realize the Aperol Spritz is just one of a few varieties of the larger category of Spritz Veneziano - you can typically choose from various amari like Campari, Select, or Aperol.

Wandering around the canals of Venice.

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.