Chow Bella

Puttin’ On the Spritz: The History and How-To of a World-Famous Italian Cocktail

The Aperol Spritz is the best-known variation of the original spritz, which dates back to the 1800s.
The Aperol Spritz is the best-known variation of the original spritz, which dates back to the 1800s. Lizzie Munro
I can always count on my friend Liz to point me toward soon-to-be-favorite cocktails. One afternoon, several years ago, she pulled out a newly purchased bottle of Aperol — a bright orangish-red Italian liqueur, sweet and light, but with an undercurrent of pleasant bitterness. Liz made me my first Aperol Spritz that day, adding dry sparkling wine and a hint of soda water to the Aperol, following the directions on the bottle.

From that moment, I was hooked. Spritzes have been a part of my summer (who am I kidding, I drink these all year) routine ever since.

The origins of the spritz take us back to the 1800s, when the Austrian Empire's domain newly extended to the Veneto region of Italy — home of Venice. The Northern Italian wine was purported to be a bit too much for the Austrians, who would add a splash of water to them before sipping.

Spritz, incidentally, is the German word for “splash.”

Like most classic drinks, the spritz has evolved over many years. The water became sparkling and the still wine became wine and liqueur.

In 1919, Aperol came on the market, and it soon became the darling of the spritz world. In the 1950s, the brand advertised in America with the 3-2-1 recipe (three parts Prosecco, two parts Aperol, one part soda water). Easy to remember and mix, and a showcase for Italian liqueur and wine.

The spritz regained popularity in the 2000s, when Campari purchased the liqueur (promising to keep the same recipe).

While the Aperol Spritz is the most common modern variation, the spritz easily lends itself to experimentation. Try adding Cynar (artichoke liqueur) for a bit of a vegetal bitter, or try green or yellow Chartreuse for a slightly sweeter (but just as complex) version. You might also want to to return to the original spritz roots with still wine — though I recommend sparkling water rather than still. You might also take a page from the way many Venetians make the Aperol Spritz — with still, dry white wine in place of sparkling.

Whatever your combination, there’s nothing quite like a spritz, either as an aperitif to wake up your taste buds before a meal begins; or as an after-dinner delight to aid in digestion without a high alcohol content. With only three ingredients, these spritzes are great for when you’re entertaining. They can delight with minimal effort and without breaking the bank.

If you haven’t had an Aperol Spritz before, start your spritz experience there. If you’re already a spritz drinker, feel free to use these basic proportions to create whatever tickles your palate.

Aperol Spritz

3 parts Prosecco
2 parts Aperol
1 splash soda
Orange slice for garnish

Add all ingredients to a glass filled with ice in a wine or rocks glass. Garnish with a slice of orange.
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Although she started out in the wine industry, Cara Strickland was converted to cocktails by a Corpse Reviver No. 2. Now, you’ll rarely find her far from a Hemingway Daiquiri, Last Word, or Water Lily.