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, during the 2000s and 2010s Davide Campari, the owners of the eponymous brand, Aperol, Cynar and other liqueurs popularly served in a Spritz did a great job of 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. It should be said they now promote more liqueur-heavy proportions but their original formula has stuck.
The 3:2:1 spritz 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 it 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 arguably better with prosecco). You can create just about any flavour of spritz by using different liqueurs and combinations of liqueurs as is evident in the list below.
Our Favourite Spritz Recipes
With: Orange bitter liqueur, prosecco sparkling wine & soda water
We say: Slightly sweet, herbal, refreshing and quaffable
With: Apple schnapps liqueur, peach schnapps & champagne
We say: Sweet, fruity champagne
With: Prosecco sparkling wine, peach purée, lemon juice, peach schnapps & soda water
We say: Basically a Bellini served on-the-rocks
With: Prosecco sparkling wine, herb flavoured hazelnut liqueur, butterscotch liqueur & soda water
We say: Hazelnut and butterscotch liqueurs flavour this Prosecco-based spritz. Better when complemented by a biscotti biscuit.
With: Prosecco sparkling wine, ginseng aperitif, elderflower liqueur & soda water
We say: An elderflower Spritz with depth of flavour and British character.
Fruit Cup Spritz
With: Prosecco sparkling wine, bianco vermouth, triple sec liqueur, sweet vermouth & soda water.
We say: A light summer spritz with flavours reminiscent of Pimm's.
With: Dry gin, chardonnay white wine, elderflower liqueur & soda water.
We say: Borrowing its name from BA High Life magazine and the highball glass it is served in, this refreshing long drink combines botanical complexity of gin with honeyed elderflower liqueur balanced with white wine acidity.
With: Prosecco sparkling wine, mastiha liqueur & soda water.
We say: The Greeks and Italians are separated by the Ionian Sea, in this Spritz both countries come together with Italian Prosecco and Greek Mastiha.
With: Champagne, cassis liqueur & soda water
We say: Rich blackcurrant fruit dried by the acidity of champagne and freshened with a splash of sparkling water.
Lemonade Spritz (mocktail)
With: Mint leaves, lemon juice, sugar syrup & soda water
We say: A minty real lemonade. A seriously fresh non-alcoholic summery drink.
Lychee & Elderflower Spritz
With: Prosecco sparkling wine, lychee liqueur, elderflower liqueur & soda water
We say: As the apt name suggests, this slightly sweet spritz is flavoured with lychee and elderflower liqueurs. East meets west in Italy.
Parma Violet Spritz
With: Prosecco sparkling wine, Violette liqueur & soda water
We say: Inspired by and garnished with mini Parma Violet sweets, this spritz is flavoured with Violette liqueur.
Peach & Apricot Spritz
With: Prosecco sparkling wine, peach schnapps, apricot brandy liqueur & soda water
We say: Think bellini with a hint of apricot.
With: Prosecco sparkling wine, fruit cup liqueur & lemonade
We say: This cocktail combines elements of the classic Venetian Spritz and England's Pimm's Cup. Resulting in a lightly sparkling and very refreshing aperitif cocktail.
Raspberry Frangipane Spritz
With: Raspberry liqueur, amaretto, Vanilla liqueur, coconut rum, butterscotch liqueur, prosecco sparkling wine & soda water
We say: Just like the eponymously named dessert this slightly sweet spritz is flavoured with raspberry, almond, vanilla, and coconut. Butterscotch adds a biscuity note.
With: Prosecco sparkling wine, strawberry puree, strawberry liqueur & soda water
We say: Perhaps best described as a Strawberry bellini, sweet strawberry flavours are tamed by the gentle acidity of Prosecco
Sicilian Orange Spritz
With: Prosecco sparkling wine, blood orange liqueur & soda water
We say: Zesty, bittersweet blood orange with prosecco effervescence.
Smoky Mocha Spritz
With: Prosecco sparkling wine, white crème de cacao & porter
We say: Coffee and chocolate flavours with a faint smokiness, invigorated with sparkling wine.
Sour Cherry Spritz
With: Prosecco sparkling wine, triple sec liqueur, cherry brandy liqueur & soda water
We say: The name aptly describes the drink.
Spritz Al Bitter
With: Prosecco sparkling wine, Italian red bitter liqueur & soda water.
We say: Basically a spritzer with a generous splash of Italian red bitter liqueur- dry and very refreshing. The perfect aperitivo
With: Sauvignon blanc wine & soda water
We say: To avoid ridicule when diluting a glass of white wine try adding a couple of ice cubes instead.
With: Sauvignon blanc wine, elderflower liqueur & soda water
We say: A long, easy drinking summer cooler.