Though much mystery surrounds this drink, one thing is certain: it was born in the region of Veneto and has since become one of the world’s favourite cocktails.
Many believe the drink dates back to somewhere between the late 1700s and early 1800s, when the Lombardy-Veneto area was under the reign of the Habsburg Empire.
It’s believed that during that time, Austrian soldiers adopted the locals’ habit of drinking in a tavern but, accustomed to drinking beer, they didn’t enjoy the high alcohol content of the wine served in Veneto.
Legend has it they requested the bartenders to add, or spray (spritzen in German), a bit of water to the glass to make the wine lighter.
While the origin of the word “Spritz” can be attributed to the Habsburgs, the custom of mixing wine with water can be traced back to many years before the arrival of the Austrians.
Some say it was done in the Middle Ages, others in Roman times, and there are even those who say it dates back to the birth of wine
among the Paleovenitian population.
During the time of the Republic of Venice, the arsenalotti (naval workers) enjoyed certain social privileges, so much so that they received an afternoon treat in the form of bread or other baked goods accompanied by wine mixed with water.
The idea of mixing the two liquids became more popular during times of poverty or crisis, as it made the wine last longer.
It’s not too different from adding water to a soup to increase the quantity.
So, you could say that the Spritz has humble roots because its origins lie within a poorer culture.
The original Spritz was made by adding water to red or white wine and in some areas of the Dolomites, this is the drink that will be placed before you if you order a sprissetto.
Its first evolution, which brought it to what we now know as the Spritz, came about in the early 1900s when seltz (soda water), which made wine fizzy, substituted still water.
Over the years, the concept of the aperitif was born and other liqueurs were added to the equation, among them the famous Aperol.
Nowadays, the correct recipe still isn’t confirmed and every area and region in Italy has its own theory.
If you visit Treviso, you’ll be served Prosecco, a choice of Aperol or Campari (or both if you order a Spritz mezzo e mezzo), an orange slice and an olive.
If you move on to Venice, you’ll be drinking still wine with Select or Cynar.
Meanwhile in Udine, it’s compulsory to make a Spritz with Tocai Friulano, Aperol or Campari and decorate it with lemon peel.
Trieste is still sticking to the Austro-Hungarian way of making it, using wine and sparkling water.
The first version is the most commonly used across the world, and is made up of three equal parts: ⅓ Prosecco, ⅓ Aperol (or Campari) and ⅓ soda water.
That said, we suggest that you trust your senses, especially sight and taste, when making one.
The orange colour (or red, if using Campari) should be vibrant, but at the same time, the bitter Aperol taste shouldn’t be overwhelming.
Although it’s often presented in a wine glass, a Spritz should be served in an Old Fashioned or rocks glass – a short tumbler used
for serving spirits or cocktails with few ingredients.
Regardless of how you choose to serve a Spritz, it’s important to remember that every Italian recipe comes with certain traditions.
Therefore, the Italian way is to drink the Spritz as an aperitif, not after dinner.
If you don’t believe this point is so crucial, you may be surprised when you walk into a traditional bar in Venice and are refused a Spritz after nine o’clock in the evening.