In a country as culturally diverse as Italy, where regional differences in language, cuisine and drinking practices remain distinct even 150 years after unification, naming a national aperitif would be borderline blasphemy. But as far as northern Italy goes, you could build a pretty strong case for the Aperol Spritz. In the Veneto region alone, around 300,000 of these wine-based Aperol cocktails are sucked down daily, according to Campari.
Some Spritz Background
The word “spritz” on its own is a generic term linked to the 19th century Austro-Hungarian practice of adding a splash (German: spritz) of water to northern Italian wines. Rumor has it, the strong wines made in their Italian territories were too bold for the refined Habsburg palate so a dash of water was used to mellow out the wine.
In the 20th century, “spritz” took on its current definition: A wine-based cocktail made with bitter liquor and a splash of soda. Brands like Aperol, Campari, Cynar or Select provided the bitter component and color, each imparting unique flavors and hues. The precise recipe, ingredient proportions, glass shape, and garnishes change from bar to bar and city to city, but one thing remains constant nationwide: When ordering a Spritz, the drinker must always specify her preferred liquor.
Aperol, an orange-red liquor invented by the Barbieri brothers in Padova in 1919, is a go-to Spritz option. Low in alcohol, pleasantly citrusy and slightly bitter, it is a light and fresh aperitif that owes its flavors and aromas to sweet and bitter oranges, rhubarb, and gentian root. The other components are a trade secret and remain unchanged. When the Campari Group purchased Aperol in 2003, they vowed to remain faithful to the original recipe.
According to the Campari Group — which owns Aperol — the “official Aperol Spritz” is made of 3 parts Cinzano Prosecco (Campari owns the Cinzano brand; any dry Prosecco will do), 2 parts Aperol and 1 part soda, proportions which spawned the “3-2-1” publicity campaign currently underway.
Major promotional campaigns have been key to growing Aperol’s popularity of the last decade. Though the custom of meeting friends for an Aperol Spritz after work or after school is a long-established custom in the Veneto, this practice has spread to other Italian regions due to the Campari Group’s aggressive and youth-oriented advertising campaigns. And in a time of recession when Italians have reined in their restaurant visits, joining friends at a bar to sip an inexpensive Spritz over cheap snacks provides an accessible social alternative.
A Demo (in Italian)
As Mario demonstrated in the brilliantly scored video above, making an Aperol Spritz is incredibly simple. But for the best results, keep these key factors in mind.
Ice: Use large cubes, never crushed ice, essential for the drink’ s slow dilution.
Prosecco: Use a chilled, dry Prosecco to impart acidity and effervescence, which whet the appetite and cleanse the palate while snacking with your Spritz.
The Glass: Spritzes are served in standard wine glasses or rocks glasses and almost always with a black straw. For easier access to your Spritz without a straw, reach for the rocks glass.
The official Aperol Spritz recipe may call for Prosecco and an orange slice garnish — and that’s mainly how you’ll find it in Padova, the place of its birth — but few bartenders are following the Campari Group’s doctrine to the letter. In Venice, your Aperol Spritz will likely be made with dry white wine instead of sparkling Prosecco. And a salty green olive might join your orange slice garnish for a bath in your coral-colored cocktail.
Standard Aperol Spritz Recipe
3 parts Prosecco
2 parts Aperol
1 splash soda
Serve with on the rocks in wine glass or rocks glass
Garnish with a slice of orange
written by Eater Cocktail Week