Posted on May 09 2017
The modern day spritz - so rumour has it - goes back to the early 19th century when Austrian soldiers added a spritz (spray) of water into the Italian wine (more accustomed as they were to Reisling wines). Over the years the spritz has developed. First it was soda water at the turn of the 19th century, then came the addition of bitters in the 1920s/30s. Finally the addition of prosecco in 1990s.
The delicious blend of bitterness and bubbles makes it the perfect aperitif and cocktails. It is also now synonymous with laid back style and leisurely lifestyle inherent in Italian culture.
It all began however, back in the 4th and 5th centuries. The Greeks and Romans also added water to wine. “Only Dionysus, they believed, could drink unmixed wine without risk.” writes Tom Standage in A History of the World in 6 Glasses.
Fast forward to the 18th Century and the development of the modern day aperitif began in North West Italy with vermouth: a fortified aromatised wine infused with spices, roots and herbs. Bitter liqueurs arrived in the 19th Century and then a combination of the two at the beginning of the 20th Century.
The modern spritz was born when soda water arrived - and that was available in Italy by the end of the 19th Century. By the late 1910s soda water was featuring in aspirational adverts for Campari and was a widespread fixture in bars.
It was the advent of bitter liqueurs however that really took the spritz (previously just wine and soda) to another level.
Bitter liqueurs are wine or spirit based drinks infused with bitter herbs, virus or other ingredients. They were marketed as not only a medicinal drink to cure all ailments: digestive issues, colds etc but a perfect aperitivio. This was a social movement to encourage a drink before a meal -(such as vermouth or aperitif liqueurs) or after a meal - (with amari).
The word ‘aperitivo comes from the Latin aperire which means to open. Having an aperitif refers to the ritual of opening one’s stomach before a meal. It was promoted as glamorous, sexy and liberating. Men and women - more often than not women - were depicted sitting sipping the brightly coloured drinks in opulent coffee houses. Go into any coffee house between 5-7pm and you will see the same thing today.
So which are the traditional aperitif and how do you make a spritz?
The classic spritz is served in a short glass or a wine glass with ice and garnished with an olive and half wheel of orange.
2 parts Bitter Liquer - Aperol is the most popular and is also the sweetest. Try doing half Aperol and half Campari for a more bitter flavour.
3 parts Prosecco
1/2 parts soda
The Negroni is served in a short glass with ice and garnished with a half wheel of orange.
1 part Campari
1 part Sweet Vermouth
3 parts Prosecco
The Bicicletta is served in a wine glass with ice and garnished with a half wheel of lemon
1/2 parts Campari
3 parts white wine
Soda Water to taste
For more delicious Spritz recipes see SPRITZ by Talia Baiocchi & Leslie Pariseau