A brief history of the Spritz

The Spritz is one of the most popular and drunk cocktails in Italy. This wine-based drink created in Veneto is linked with many moments of sociability, warmth and lightheartedness. Throughout the peninsula it is known as the symbol of the aperitif. Even the rest of the world recognizes its fame: fundamental in its history is the year 2011, when the International Bartender Association (IBA) officially recognized it as one of the best-known official drinks served by bartenders in the world.

But where was it born? And above all who invented it? There isn’t a precise story about his paternity. The Spritz has in fact mysterious origins: there are several versions, some shrouded in legend and others that trace it back to ancient times. According to the most popular hypothesis, the origin of Spritz dates back to the nineteenth century, during the period of the Habsburg domination in Veneto. Austrian soldiers used to enjoy a good glass of wine in their taverns. When they arrived in Veneto, they wanted to continue their traditions, but they clashed with the particularly strong white wines of the area. Accustomed to lower alcoholic levels, they asked the innkeepers to sprinkle a little water in the glass of wine. In German, "Spritzen" means precisely "to sprinkle". The Austro-Hungarian model is still served today in various locations in Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

According to the second version the history of Spritz begins even earlier, and it’s linked to the Serenissima Republic. Here, in fact, about five centuries ago the naval workers, called arsenalotti, had a snack with a substantial and restorative meal, which helped them to cope with the tiring rhythms of work. It seems that this snack consisted of bread, or other baked product, accompanied with wine diluted with water.

During the twentieth century, the Spritz recipe underwent important changes which included the replacement of sparkling water: this ingredient was replaced with Aperol in the Paduan version of the drink and with Select - a dry liqueur with a slightly citrus flavor - in the Venice area.

It is difficult, then, to give a direct answer to the questions about its origin and its preparation. But perhaps this is precisely where its charm lies: the richness of the stories that surround it, the creativity used in its simple preparation, are witnesses of the pride that the Italian people have for their excellence.

Written by
Francesco Torlontano