Aperol Spritz, a bitter-sweet memory
There are 300,000 glasses of Aperol Spritz poured every day in Italy. What makes Aperol spritz distinctive is the bright orange aperitive called Aperol.
I first discovered it on the smart café terrace of Osteria Bancogiro. It overlooks the Grand Canal in Venice, sandwiched between the hedonistic delights of the Rialto and the Market.
Memories made of this
A waiter approaches, 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 in the direction of two achingly cool women. One is in Versace, the other in Prada. Both are sipping long orange drinks. They stir them languidly with straws.
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
All those moments
Lost in wonder
My drink arrives, stylishly served in a large wine glass. A bright orange fizzy concoction. Grazie. I resist the temptation to reach for it until after the waiter has retreated. Try to act serene, just like a native Venetian.
Though the world
Is my oyster
It’s only a shell
Full of memories
From the first sip, I discover why this is a timeless Italian classic. This ice-cold tonic for the senses is a stunning orange-red. Any thoughts about a resemblance to Irn Bru get forgotten at the first taste.
The fizz is Prosecco. Aperol adds bitter orange 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. Never a good look, so take your time. It’s the ideal drink to linger over; whether people-watching in Padua, at the opera in Verona, or being seduced in Venice.
These cities may change
But there always remains
The recipe for Aperol is, as usual, a closely guarded secret. It includes bitter orange, gentian, cinchona, herbs, aromatic roots and rhubarb. No iron girders.
Through silken waters
My gondola glides
And the Bridge
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. Decision time. Either leave now for a rendezvous at St. Mark’s Square, or take another Aperol spritz and damn the consequences.
Cameriere? Ancora, per favore.
Where are you now? Perhaps one day I’ll see you again?
Aperol Spritz recipe
Aperol was 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.
A Spritz virtually makes itself. Combine Aperol with Prosecco and add a splash of soda over plenty of ice. Add a slice of orange or an olive.
Use a large wine glass or a frosted highball glass
Fill with ice
Pour three parts dry Prosecco over the ice
Then add two parts of Aperol
Finally, add one part Soda or sparkling water
Garnish with a slice of orange, an olive, and a straw
Add the ingredients in that order as you get a lovely even colour.
If you forget the 3-2-1 proportions, the back label on the Aperol bottle has a reminder.
Thankfully, Spritz isn’t one of those summer holiday drinks. You know the type, they come with blurred memories of sand, sex, and sangria. They’re brought back to Britain and get stuck at the back of the cupboard.
Instead, Spritz translates easily from Italian summer 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 the UK and become hugely popular since I discovered it, 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.
Campo San Giacometto, 122
Harry’s Bar in Venice is another bar, famous for the Bellini. Make that your next stop in Venice, it’s not far away.