Spritz Aperol: an all-year alternative to Pimms
Spritz Aperol has become a trendy aperitif outside Italy, with its bittersweet refreshing taste that encapsulates a summer sunset in a glass. But it didn’t used to be so fancy. The drink was originally created by the Austrians, who would water down the local wines of north-east Italy during their invasion in the early 1800s. It has now evolved into more nuanced variations that include Aperol and Campari, among other bitters. Depending on the city, you might find it listed with different names: spritz (closer to Padova and Venice), pirlo (closer to Milan), or Negroni sbagliato.
Having grown up in the heart of north-east Italy, I was exposed to the drink from a young age, but I never had the opportunity to try it. Until I was 19. It was the last day of high school. My classmates and I had spent the night before up chatting and drinking by the lake, reminiscing about the last 5 years, and wondering where our lives would lead us. It was a bittersweet moment, and a night I still cherish. When the sun rose, we slowly made our way back to the city to enter those school walls for the very last time. When we got outside school, we decided to delay the moment a bit longer and stop for breakfast. But we had been up all night, we weren’t really after cappuccino e cornetto (cappuccino and croissant). We wanted to mark the occasion in a special way. So partly because my friends were all true locals (who used to drink milk and whiskey when they were poorly, since a very young age), and partly because we felt we were grown up but still young and foolish, we ordered a Spritz Aperol each. It was 7.30am. Finally, my moment had come. After years of hearing about it, I was sooo ready to be baptised with this amber juice. I took a sip and… god, that’s disgusting! I was not ready for the bitterness. But I was a follower, so I felt I had to suck it up and finish the drink without a twitch. And so I did. And then walked straight into school for first period: religion.
It was only by the time I had my third spritz that I actually started enjoying it. (Why did I order it again if I didn’t like it the first time? Well, I wanted to be one of the cool kids. And my grandfather always used to say I should have three bites of something before I could say I didn’t like it. I guess in my mind that meant three glasses). By the time I went to university in Padova (Spritz Aperol’s hometown), my friends and I were experts at finding the best place with the cheapest spritz. On average, you’d find it for 2.50€, but we knew where to get it even for just 1.00€! Then bars got smarter and realised they could make more money out of people by offering a few nibbles alongside it. So now you can order a spritz and pay something between 5-15€, depending on how trendy the bar is, and get enough finger food to fill you up for dinner. That’s a pretty good deal!
When I moved to the UK, I searched long and hard where to find something similar: a bar that could offer an aperitivo, with nibbles, and a reasonably prices spritz. I have yet to find it. The cheapest spritz I found was in a restaurant in London, on Upper St near Angel, called VIVO where it cost £4.95. The price has since gone up to match the overpriced £7-8 of any other bar, restaurant, café in the country. Luckily, , so I wait for it to be on offer, or grab a bottle in the airport on my way back from Italy.
Here’s my recipe for one glass of Spritz Aperol:
2/3 (it’s sweeter than prosecco, and not as dry)
A splash of sparking water (to make it a bit foamy like in bars, use a corkscrew to make a hole on the cap, and then squeeze the water out from the tiny hole)
A slice of orange (preferably a blood orange)
Enjoy! And let me know what your
And let me know what your favourite spritz recipe is 🙂
Photo credit: SplitShire and Daniel Harrison.