DRINKS

A spirit of in­no­va­tion is mak­ing for in­trigu­ing it­er­a­tions of the ef­fer­ves­cent Spritz, writes

Gourmet Traveller (Australia) - - OCT - MAX ALLEN.

Max Allen on the Spritz.

Idrank my first Spritz in a pi­azza in Venice one golden af­ter­noon in the early 2000s. It was a rev­e­la­tion. This sparkling, in­can­des­cent drink seemed the per­fect thing for that lazy, lim­i­nal hour be­tween work and play. It tasted fan­tas­tic with the se­lec­tion of salty, savoury snacks on the ta­ble in front of me. It felt like peo­ple had been drink­ing this glo­ri­ous con­coc­tion in pi­az­zas in Venice for cen­turies. It felt time­lessly Ital­ian.

Turns out that the ver­sion of the Spritz I was drink­ing – a blend of sparkling prosecco, bit­ter­sweet liqueur and fizzy wa­ter, served over ice in a wine glass with a slice of or­ange and a green olive – was a rel­a­tively re­cent ar­rival on the Ital­ian drink­ing scene, al­beit one with a long and fas­ci­nat­ing pre­his­tory.

As Talia Baioc­chi and Les­lie Pariseau re­veal in their 2016 book, Spritz: Italy’s Most Iconic Aper­i­tivo

Cock­tail, the prac­tice of pour­ing a dash of sparkling soda wa­ter into still white wine to spritz it up prob­a­bly be­gan in the early years of the 20th cen­tury. When Amer­i­can cock­tail cul­ture ar­rived in the 1920s and ’30s, bar­tenders across Italy’s north started adding a dash of bit­ter liqueur such as red Cam­pari (to make what we now call the Bi­ci­cletta) or the then newly in­vented or­ange Aperol.

But it wasn’t un­til the 1990s that bar­tenders in the tran­quil beach re­sorts in Venice de­cided to use bub­bly prosecco rather than still white wine as the base of the Spritz, and in­crease the bit­ter liqueur con­tent. It’s this recipe that we’ve come to recog­nise as the “clas­sic”, and we’ve be­come fa­mil­iar with it in a rel­a­tively short space of time. When I tasted my first Spritz in Venice, it wasn’t a com­mon sight in bars out­side Italy; now you’ll find peo­ple drink­ing Spritzes ev­ery­where. Wine gi­ant Ja­cobs Creek has even jumped on the band­wagon, launch­ing pre-mixed bot­tles of Prosecco Spritz ear­lier this year.

Much of the mod­ern pop­u­lar­ity of the Spritz is thanks to a con­certed mar­ket­ing cam­paign by the mak­ers of Aperol, Gruppo Cam­pari, the huge global drinks com­pany that has owned the Aperol brand since 2003. In­deed, thanks to this mar­ket­ing push, many peo­ple both in Italy and out­side now as­sume that or­der­ing a Spritz au­to­mat­i­cally means you’ll get an Aperol-f lavoured sparkling drink.

De­spite this, Baioc­chi and Pariseau re­port that there are still bar­tenders across Italy’s north who are main­tain­ing fiercely re­gional Spritz tra­di­tions – and re­fus­ing to buy into the Aperol group­think – by us­ing other liqueurs: Cy­nar or the lo­cal red Se­lect bit­ter liqueur in Padua; el­derf lower cor­dial and mint in

Alto Adige; Cam­pari, sweet ver­mouth and prosecco to make a Ne­groni Sbagliato – a Ne­groni-Spritz hy­brid – in Milan.

You can find a sim­i­lar spirit of di­ver­sity and in­no­va­tion in bars and restau­rants across Aus­tralia. Some, such as Syd­ney’s 10 Wil­liam St, stick proudly to the clas­sic for­mula (al­beit with­out the soda wa­ter) and do it bloody well. Oth­ers, like Em­bla in Mel­bourne, swap out the Aperol for more ob­scure liqueurs such as Rondo, an ar­ti­san or­ganic aper­i­tivo from Sud Tirol in northern Italy.

Some take the drink on a jour­ney else­where, as with the Mirto Spritz at Syd­ney’s Banksii: a com­bi­na­tion of Sar­dinian myr­tle liqueur, prosecco and lemon zest. And some pay trib­ute to the drink’s colour­ful northern Ital­ian past by us­ing more than one of that re­gion’s liqueurs. The Have It All Spritz, from The Ever­leigh bar in Mel­bourne, in­cor­po­rates Cham­pagne, Aperol, Coc­chi Amer­i­cano and Coc­chi

“Many peo­ple both in Italy and be­yond as­sume that or­der­ing a Spritz means you’ll get an Aperol-flavoured sparkling drink.”

Rosa – and is gar­nished with both or­ange and lemon. And oth­ers see the Spritz as more of a con­cept than a recipe. This Must be the Place in Syd­ney’s Ox­ford Street, for in­stance, is billed as a Spritz bar and al­ways has a few vari­a­tions on of­fer – but the Gloss Spritz, for ex­am­ple, with its straw­berry, Ke­tel One Citroen, wa­ter­melon ries­ling and rose­wa­ter, is not some­thing you’d be likely to en­counter in Italy.

Ever since my first Spritz en­counter in Venice (it was a Cam­pari Spritz, by the way), I’ve ex­per­i­mented with var­i­ous in­gre­di­ents and com­bi­na­tions. I’ve found – as have many oth­ers – that the 3-2-1 rule is a good guide to mix­ing a per­fect ver­sion of the drink: three parts sparkling wine, two parts bit­ter liqueur, one part soda wa­ter. Some peo­ple ad­vo­cate us­ing a rocks glass, some a large-bowled wine glass. I like to go half­way with a stem­less wine glass that’s roomy enough for plenty of ice and a cit­rus slice.

And I know the Spritz is a clas­sic Ital­ian aper­i­tivo, but I find my­self mix­ing an all-Aussie ver­sion on warm, golden Aus­tralian af­ter­noons, us­ing a good prosecco from Dal Zotto in Vic­to­ria’s King Val­ley, the bril­liantly dark, bit­ter Red Økar riberry-based liqueur made in the Ade­laide Hills, Capi soda wa­ter, a slice of Mil­dura-grown blood or­ange, and a home-cured green olive from my back­yard.

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