A Spritz, as synonymous with Italy as red, white and blue are with America. It’s only been a few years that this light, refreshing aperitif drink has become a nationwide favorite. Like everything in Italy, it has its origins and interesting history behind it.
History of the Spritz
The home to the original Spritz is in Veneto, a region in Northeast Italy. Legend has it that in the 1800’s, during the period of the Habsburg domination in the region, their soldiers became quick fans of drinking local wine in the city’s taverns. However, they weren’t accustomed to its high alcohol content. They started to ask for a splash (German: spritz) of water to be added to the wine to make it lighter.
The original Spritz is composed of two, no fuss, ingredients: sparkling white or red wine diluted with fresh water.Over the centuries though the Spritz has experienced growth with its endless variety of possibilities. Aiding in its nationwide popularity is due to the Campari Group’s brilliant, massive, and youth – oriented campaigns. Meeting friends and enjoying an Aperol Spritz after work has become the new, cool, and most importantly, due to the recession in Italy, affordable thing to do.
The exact recipe, ingredient proportions, glass shape (a standard wine glass or a rocks glass with a black straw is the norm), and garnishes change from bar to bar and city to city. The one thing that remains consistent, from Puglia to Veneto, when ordering a Spritz, the drinker must always specify their preferred liquor.
My personal favorite version of the Spritz is the classic Aperol Spritz. It’s perfect for sipping as the afternoon heat dies down. Aperol, an orange-red liquor invented by the Barbieri brothers in Padova, Italy in 1919 is the most popular go-to Spritz option today. It’s low in alcohol, which is perfect for an aperitif drink, its light and fresh. Aperol is sweet yet with aromas of bitter oranges, rhubarb and gentian root. Campari’s 3-2-1 publicity campaign breaks down the recipe in an easy way to remember: three parts Prosecco, two parts Aperol, one splash of tonic water.
- three parts Prosecco or dry, sparkling white wine
- two parts Aperol
- one splash of tonic water
- Fill a wine glass with large ice cubes, never use crushed ice, it’s essential for the drink’s slow dilution.
- Add in your favorite dry Prosecco, make sure its chilled, the dryness imparts acidity and effervescence, which cleanses the palate for the snacks that accompany your Spritz.
- Add in a splash of tonic water and garnish it with a slice of orange.
- Take a sip and imagine yourself in an Italian beach!
The Hugo Spritz, (Ugo in Italian, pronounced OOH – goh) It’s the preferred aperitivo in the Dolomites. The refreshing and light Spritz has been high – altitude tested by respected baristas. Rumor has it that an Italian barista, Roland Gruber, invented this cocktail Naturno, a town in Northern Italy where German is the prominent language and Italian is understood.
It originally consisted of Prosecco sparkling wine, seltzer water, fresh mint leaves and lemon syrup. Gruber called his creation Hugo/Ugo, for no apparent reason. The recipe has been modified since its birth in 2005 by dropping the lemon syrup and replacing it with an Elderberry syrup.
Elderberry is a plant which produces Elderflowers that thrives in the European Alps, which is a nice nod to the region where the Hugo comes from. The Elderflowers are transformed into a syrup called Sciroppo di Sambuco, a sweet, bright yellow, thick syrup that is the key ingredient for the Hugo Spritz
- Elderflower Syrup, Sciroppo di Sambuco
- Splash of seltzer water
- Garnish with Mint leaves
- Fill a wine glass with large ice cubs
- Add your favorite dry Prosecco
- Add in 1 part Elderflower Syrup
- Add in a splash of seltzer water
- Take 4 mint leaves and slap them together in your hands to crack the leaves, add, stir gently to mix fully
- Sit back and enjoy!
The Campari Spritz, the big brother, who is bold and assertive, to the soft and refreshing Aperol Spritz. The Campari Spritz is bright and sweet, bubbly and bitter. I prefer to drink a Campari Spritz from a rocks glass instead of a wine glass because it seems like a more serious drink due to its bitterness. Every time I order a Campari Spritz, I make sure to ask the bartender or barista to add in a green olive, there’s something about the tanginess of a green olive that mixes well with the subtly sweet, bitter Campari.
- 3 ounces Prosecco or sparkling wine
- 1 ounce club soda
- 2 ounces of Campari
- Garnish with 1 large green olive or a slice of orange
- Fill a rocks glass with ice
- Add Prosecco
- Club soda and Campari
- Stir gently
- Garnish with olives
As you can see in the picture above, the Campari Spritz, to the right, is a bright red compared to the orange Aperol Spritz. If you’re a fan of stronger, bitter cocktail, try a Campari Spritz!
The Limoncello Spritz
My tastebuds enjoyed this Amalfi version of the Spritz while in Positano. Lemons are abundant in the region and it’s home to Limoncello. The limoncello added a citrusy, tangy twist that was perfect for a cool down aperitif.
- 3 ounces of Prosecco
- 2 ounces of Limoncello
- 1 ounce of club soda
- Garnish with a lemon slice
- Fill a wine glass with ice
- Add in Prosecco
- Club soda
- Garnish with a slice of lemon
- Stir gently, sit back and enjoy!
These are only a few ways to have a Spritz cocktail. Next time you throw a dinner party or have a few friends over, experiment with different variations and create your own go-to Spritz cocktail recipe this summer!
Check out the Ultimate Summer Dish recipe to accompany your refreshing Spritz.