Chances are, if you’ve been to Venice you’ve had at least one. Likely a dozen or more.

I’m talking about the spritz, a wine-based cocktail that’s served in about every watering hole in Italy’s Veneto region.

Far less boozy than typical cocktails, spritzes are ridiculously refreshing. Typically served as apéritifs (before a meal), they also happen to be ideal anytime drinks. Which is why, even back home from a recent visit to Venice, my wife and I have been making them almost daily.

Of course, as with most good cocktails, this one’s origins are cloudy. Plus, it seems everyone has his or her own way to make them.

The entrance of the Caffè Florian in Venice, Italy (Photograph by Francesco Zany, wiki)
The entrance of the Caffè Florian in Venice, Italy (Photograph by Francesco Zany, wiki)

For help, I turned to Talia Baiocchi, co-author of a spritz history and recipe book to be published next spring. Among various creation myths, the most plausible puts the spritz’s birth in 19th-century northern Italy, during the Hapsburg Empire’s domination of the area, she says. Locals took to adding a little water in their wine, probably to make it less alcoholic.

But it wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century, when tipplers swapped still for sparkling water, that these drinks really became true spritzes, she says. A true spritz today is made by pairing wine and carbonated water (or simply a sparkling wine, such as prosecco) with a bitter liqueur of some kind—often an aperitivo such as Campari or Aperol—and serving the mixture over cubed or crushed ice.

In a country where neighboring towns engage in fierce and proud rivalries—especially when it comes to local traditions and soccer teams—the favored spritz recipe depends on where you are. Indeed, folks in Italy’s Trentino Alto Adige region tend to have their own iteration called the Hugo Spritz. Here, instead of (Read more...)

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