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Aperol Spritz - a bittersweet memory

Aperol Spritz, a bitter-sweet memory

On a smart café terrace* overlooking the Grand Canal in Venice, sandwiched between the hedonistic delights of the Rialto and the Market, I discovered Aperol spritz.

There are 300,000 glasses of spritz consumed every day in Venice, or so I’m told. The thing that makes Aperol spritz distinctive is the bright orange aperitive called Aperol.

A waiter arrives wearing white gloves. Benvegnúo. Hot and jaded by crowded sightseeing, I glance across the nearby tables seeking inspiration. Ah, I want one of those.

I nod surreptitiously in the direction of two achingly cool women, one dressed in Versace, one in Prada. Both are sipping long orange drinks, stirring them languidly with straws.

Spritz? Sí, sí, spritz.

While I’m waiting, Roxy Music’s A Song for Europe starts playing in my head, on repeat

Here as I sit
At this empty café
Thinking of you
I remember
All those moments
Lost in wonder…

My drink arrives, stylishly served in a large wine glass, a bright, orange and fizzy concoction. Grazie. Resist the temptation to reach for the glass until after the waiter has retreated. Act serene, just like a native Venetian would.

Though the world
Is my oyster
It’s only a shell
Full of memories

From the first sip, I discover why this drink is a timeless Italian classic. This ice-cold tonic for the senses is a stunning orange-red colour. Any fleeting thoughts about it resembling Irn Bru are forgotten the moment it’s tasted.

The fizz comes from Prosecco. Aperol brings bitter orange, with sweeter fruits underpinning it and a subtle herbal, vermouth-like note that lingers on and on until the next sip. It tastes a little like Campari, only lighter and fresher.

A bitter-sweet indulgence, the temptation is to down it in one. But that’s not a good look. Take your time; this is an ideal drink to linger over, whether people-watching in Padua, attending the opera in Verona, or being seduced by Venice.

These cities may change
But there always remains
My obsession

To know spritz it is necessary to understand one of the essential ingredients – Aperol. Invented in Padua by two brothers back in 1919, it gained popularity during the 1950‘s and quickly spread its Vespa-like charms throughout northern Italy. The recipe for Aperol has never altered and remains, as is usual a closely guarded secret. The bitter orange is accompanied by an infusion of gentian, cinchona, herbs, aromatic roots and rhubarb. No girders.

A spritz then virtually makes itself: combine Aperol with Prosecco and add a splash of soda water over plenty of ice.

Through silken waters
My gondola glides
And the Bridge
It Sighs…

Now my glass is drained, only a puddle of ice remains, the olive marooned. Versace parts company with air kisses and Ciao, Ciao.  Prada remains seated and orders a fresh glass of spritz. Was that a flirtatious glance? Decision time. Either leave now for a rendezvous at St. Mark’s Square, or take another Aperol spritz and damn the consequences. No contest.

Waiter…ancora, per favore.

*Osteria Bancogiro, since you ask. Perhaps I’ll see you there?

Aperol Spritz recipe

  • Use a large wine glass or a frosted highball glass
    Fill with ice
    Pour 3 parts dry Prosecco over the ice
    Then add 2 parts of Aperol
    Finally, add 1 part Soda or sparkling water
    Garnish with a slice of orange, an olive, and a straw.
    Do add the ingredients in that order as you get a nice even colour that way

If you forget the 3-2-1 rule, the back label on the Aperol bottle has a printed reminder.

This isn’t one of those summer holiday drinks offering blurred memories of sand, sex, and sangria bought wearily back to weary Britain then stuck in the back of a cupboard. Spritz translates easily from summer Italian heat to English winter drizzle, a joyous pick-me-up for even the foulest of days.

Once the preserve of specialist drinks shops, Aperol has become readily available in UK supermarkets since I originally wrote this piece, back in 2011. Though I can’t claim responsibility for that it remains my favourite aperitivo.  £12.00 or less for a 70 cl bottle.

“Cin-Cin”.

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