Something about that hint of spring in the air makes us want to hit the road and lighten our drinks. A new book, Spritz: Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail, by Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau (available March 15), encourages us to do both with its description of the “Spritz Trail.”
Although it’s not an official trail, the authors describe how the Spritz—basically a combination of three parts prosecco, two parts bitter liqueur, such as Aperol or Campari, and one part soda—changes from city to city.
The authors took a 10-day road trip in a tiny Fiat 500 Coupé across northern Italy in search of the Spritz, from Venice to Milan to Turin. “In the process, we discovered that the Spritz’s biggest secret is that it really is much more than a recipe or a category of drinks,” they say. “The Spritz is a regional perspective on the aperitif,” signifying a cultural way that certain regions in the north think about aperitifs.
Although the Aperol Spritz is the best-known variation in the U.S.—and Italy as well—in decades past, the Spritz varied more widely from city to city, often depending on the favored local bitter. “‘Which bitters do you prefer in your Spritz?’ is basically like asking, ‘Which soccer team is the best in Italy?’” the authors quip.
These four recipes are great mileposts for exploring the Spritz Trail from the comfort of your home.
Amid the Dolomites, the Alto Adige Spritz isn’t made with a bitter aperitif; instead, it’s made with acqua santa (holy water), an elderflower cordial that’s often made locally by allowing the flowers and sugar to ferment in the sun. Because fresh elderflower isn’t available in the U.S., St. Germain elderflower liqueur is subbed in the recipe below.
- 1/2 oz St. Germain
- Mint sprig
- 4 oz prosecco
- 1 oz soda water
Add the St. Germain and mint sprig to a wine glass. Gently muddle together and let sit for 3 minutes. Add ice, the prosecco and the soda water. Stir gently to combine. Garnish with a mint sprig and lemon wheel.
In the town of Brescia, about an hour by car from Milan, the locals call their Spritz the Pirlo, meaning “fall,” a romantic reference to the way the red bitter descends through the drink and to the bottom of the glass. Typically consumed with still white wine and soda, the Pirlo usually is made with local favorite Cappelletti, as a variation on Milan’s Bicicletta, which was invented in the 1930s and is mostly consumed with Campari.
- 1–2 oz Campari (or Cappilletti for a pirlo variation)
- 3 oz white wine
- Soda water
Build the ingredients in a wine glass over ice. Garnish with a lemon half-wheel.
In fast-paced, cosmopolitan Milan, the aperitif has strayed furthest from tradition, according to the authors. It’s also home to the legendary Bar Basso, the birthplace of the Negroni’s bubbly cousin, the Negroni Sbagliato.
- 1 oz Campari
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
- 3 oz prosecco
Build ingredients in a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with half an orange wheel.
The Venetian Spritz
Described as “the Spritz that launched a thousand spritzes,” the Venetian Spritz is made with a range of bitter liqueurs, including the ubiquitous Aperol from Padua and the more locally beloved, deep red Select Aperitivo. (It’s hard to find in the States, so the authors recommend a mix of equal parts Aperol and Campari.)
- 2 oz bitter liqueur (such as a 1:1 mix of Aperol and Campari)
- 3–4 oz prosecco
- 2 oz soda water
Build the ingredients in a rocks or wine glass, over ice. Garnish with a skewered olive and orange half-wheel.