Words by Simon Difford
The Spritz is a drink from northern Italy, particularly Venice and the Veneto region where it is pronounced 'Spriss' (from the German verb Spritzen, meaning spray or splash).
This aperitif cocktail's origins date back to the end of the 19th century when Venice was still part of the Austrian Empire. During this period Austrian soldiers drank the local wines of Veneto in taverns where they were billeted but they often diluted these with water to achieve a similar alcohol content to the beer they were more accustomed to drinking. Hence, the Spritzer, a combination of equal parts white wine and soda water.
In Veneto, the Spritz Al Bitter is made with the traditional white wines of the Veneto region, Pinot Grigio, Soave or Prosecco. The bitter liqueur used varies according to personal taste with Campari perhaps the driest. According to Gruppo Campari, in Veneto, around 300,000 Spritzes are consumed every day, that's more that's 200 Spritzes a minute.
Other popular bitter liqueurs used include Aperol, Gran Classico, Select or Cynar. The drink is usually garnished with a slice of orange but sometimes an olive depending on the liqueur used.
In the 2000 American comedy film Meet the Parents starring Robert de Niro, Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman, Streisand offers De Niro an Italian Spritz instead of his usual Tom Collins. The film perhaps marks the start of the global spread and rise in popularity for the spritz.
Most bartenders in Venice give their recipe for a Spritz using words like "splash" rather than distinct proportions or recipes. However, Davide Campari, the owners of the eponymous brand, Aperol, Cynar and other liqueurs popularly served in a Spritz have done a good job in communicating what they think the proportions of a Spritz should be, promoting a 3:2:1 formula with 3 parts processco, 2 parts Aperol and finally the last part being a 'spritz' of soda water - all served over ice in a goblet-shaped glass.
Campari's formula makes for a good drink but is different from that traditionally served in numerous bacari and osteria in Venice where they take a tumbler-shaped glass (rather than goblet) and fill with ice before using local white wine as their base, then adding the Campari or Aperol and finishing with a spritz of prosecco. It is this serve that was my inspiration for the St-German Cocktail I created for the 2007 launch of St-Germain elderflower liqueur. This is basically an elongated elderflower spritz with soda water replacing the prosecco, although it's better with prosecco. You can create just about any flavour spritz by using different liqueurs and combinations of liqueurs as is evident in the list below.
Links to spritz recipes
Fruit Cup spritz
Lemonade Spritz (mocktail)
Lychee & Elderflower Spritz
Parma Violet Spritz
Peach & Apricot Spritz
Raspberry Frangipane Spritz
Sicilian Orange Spritz
Smoky Mocha Spritz
Sour Cherry Spritz
Spritz Al Bitter