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Spritz Cocktail

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Spritz coktail is one of the most popular and appreciated Italian drinks. Its first recipe, very simple, was born in Veneto region in the 19th century. Today, after a long evolution, its most known variation is ‘Aperol Spritz’, prepared using Aperol bitter. In 2011 this cocktail was ‘officialized’ by the IBA (International Bartenders Association), which named it ‘Spritz Veneziano’.

The history of Spritz cocktail.

The history of Spritz cocktail.

Although there are many theories about the subject (*1), a great part of the sources traces the origins of Spritz drink back to the nineteenth century, to be exact in the period of the Austrian domination over the Italian region of Lombard-Veneto. The primitive version of this specialty could derive from the custom, adopted by the soldiers of the Habsburg army, to soften the effects of the alcohol contained in the local wine diluting it with a spray (in German ‘spritzen’) of sparkling water.
The drink, as we know it today, was born in the ‘900, when the original ‘recipe’ was enriched with the addition of bitters (*2).


*1: Considering the great simplicity of this alcoholic beverage in its primitive form (just wine and water), some sources speculate that its origins could be much older.
*2: Select, Aperol and Campari above all.

Venice, the city of Spritz cocktail.

The city of Venice is undoubtedly one of the most iconic places when it comes to Aperol Spritz, the alcoholic aperitif famous all over the world. It’s therefore no coincidence that the IBA, the International Bar Association, gave it the name ‘Spritz Veneziano’.

Aperol Spritz drink.
Aperol Spritz, the ‘Spritz Veneziano’.

Aperol Spritz, the ‘Spritz Veneziano’.

The modern version of Spritz (*1) most probably dates back to the early 1900s (1920/1930 ca.) when, in the Italian cities of Venice and Padua, the original drink was enriched by the addition of Select or Aperol bitter.
Over the years, the latter became by far the most popular ingredient, so much to become part of the recipe for the ‘Spritz Veneziano’, made official in 2003 by the IBA (International Bartenders Association).

*1: In some traditional bars, the original version of Spritz, made just with still wine and water, is still served.

What is Aperol?

What is Aperol?

Aperol, the undisputed star of ‘Spritz Veneziano’, is an alcoholic aperitif invented by the Fratelli Barbieri company, presented for the first time to the public in July 1919, during the Padua International Fair. The great success of this product is most probably due to its bright orange color and bitter-sweet taste (‘bitter’), resulting from the infusion in alcohol of its main ingredients: orange, roots and herbs. In this regard, little is known about the recipe: a secret jealously guarded for over a century.
In 2003 Aperol was acquired by the Campari Group.

Aperol Spritz: calories.

Aperol Spritz: calories.

It’s not easy to determine accurately the number of calories contained in a Spritz Veneziano, especially considering the fact that it can be served in glasses of different sizes and that the proportions of the ingredients required by the original IBA recipe sometimes are not respected with precision. Considering this, it’s possible to say that the number of calories is usually around 80/120 for each glass.

Aperol Spritz: ingredients and preparation.

Aperol Spritz: ingredients and preparation.

The Aperol Spritz recipe, ‘officialized’ in 2011 by the IBA (International Bartenders Association) with the name ‘Spritz Veneziano’, is quite simple and needs just a few ingredients:


  • Aperol;
  • Prosecco wine;
  • Soda water / Seltz;
  • Half slice of an orange;
  • Ice;

Preparation method:

  • 01. Fill the glass with ice;
  • 02. Pour Prosecco wine (6cl).
  • 03. Add Aperol (4cl);
  • 04. Add soda water;
  • 05. Gently mix;
  • 06. Garnish using half slice of orange;
The origins of the name ‘Spritz’.

The origins of the name ‘Spritz’.

According to many sources, the name ‘Spritz’ derives from the German word ‘spritzen’, whose English translation is ‘spray’.

This should be related to the custom of the Austrian soldiers stationed in the Lombardy-Veneto area during the 19th century, to dilute still wine with a ‘spray’ of effervescent water in order to reduce its alcoholic content.

Spritz cocktail: Venetian gondola.
Different types of Spritz cocktail.

Different types of Spritz cocktail.

Not just Aperol Spritz: an article about this drink should not be considered complete without at least mentioning its most famous variants:

Bottle of Campari.Spritz Campari
Spritz with Campari has Milanese origins and is much appreciated especially by those who prefer a slightly more alcoholic and amarotic drink. The ingredients used to prepare this Spritz are:

  • Prosecco wine;
  • Bitter Campari;
  • Soda water;
  • Ice;

Bottle of Select.Spritz Select
‘Select’ is considered by many of Venice’s oldest bar-goers as the first bitter aperitif used to enrich Spritz drink. The ingredients of Spritz Select are:

  • Prosecco wine;
  • Bitter Select;
  • Soda water / Seltz;
  • Green olive;
  • Ice;

White Spritz
‘White Spritz’ is the type of drink that most resembles the original Spritz, it’s therefore made with just:

  • White wine (still);
  • Soda water / Seltz;
Venetian bacaro.

Tasting a Spritz cocktail in a ‘bacaro’.

‘Bacari’ are among the most suggestive locations to savor Spritz Veneziano.

They are typical bars, easy to come across walking through the ‘calli’, the narrow streets of Venice: colorful places, heirs of an ancient tradition, where it’s also possible to enjoy the pleasant company of the people of this incredible city.

Venetian Bacari.
'Spuncioni' to accompany Spritz drink.

The best food to accompany a Spritz cocktail.

Spritz is considered by many the ‘prince’ of aperitifs: as such, it’s generally accompanied by tempting appetizers (known in Venice with the name ‘Cicchetti’) like, for example, canapes with fish, vegetables and eggs, tiny sandwiches and colorful pizzas. Green olives, peanuts and chips can never be missing from the counter where this drink is served.

Water and wine: the first Spritz.

Water and wine: the first Spritz.

The oldest type of Spritz was prepared by mixing just water and white wine. Such simplicity should not seem strange, considering the fact that diluting wine was an expedient used in the past by many regular bar-goers, especially in the provincial towns of Northern Italy.

This expedient was useful for not getting drunk, at least not immediately, so that they could engage, with some attention, to recreational activities such as card games and billiards.
In some places, this tradition persists still today, although it’s gradually disappearing.

Soda water for Spritz cocktail.

Soda water for Spritz cocktail.

According to the official IBA (International Bartender Association) recipe, Aperol Spritz should be prepared using soda water (also known as ‘sparkling water’): a type of water rich in carbon dioxide, generally sold in bottles.

It may happen that ‘Seltz’ is used instead of soda: the main difference is that, in this case, carbon dioxide is mixed with the water at the moment, using a particular type of siphon.
It’s interesting to note that the word ‘Seltz’ derives from ‘Selters’: the name of a German municipality, famous for hosting a natural source of ‘Selterswasser‘, natural sparkling water.

Spritz Cocktail.

The right glasses for Spritz cocktail.

Although there are no precise rules, Aperol Spritz is generally served in two types of glass: the ‘low tumbler’, cylindrical and slightly flared, or the classic stem glass.

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