Lo Spritz – the National Drink of the Italian Summer
Summer is on its way. Plans are a little vague this year with the world health crisis and the huge toll it has taken on our beloved Bel Paese. But one thing is certain, summer still means the Spritz! While different regions have their particular wines, their special dishes that signify only that place, the Spritz is the national drink found all over Italy – from Sicily to Rome, Venice to Bolzano. Nothing lightens our spirits quite like ending a warm sunny day with the effervescent drink that says ‘la dolce vita’ best.
The ingredients are basic – Prosecco, Campari or Aperol, a splash of soda and twist of orange.
Add some ice and it’s perfection on a summer afternoon.
In my travels all over the country, I’ve discovered some interesting twists on the basic.
Good bartenders always love to add something new to their repertoire. Come on a Vinotalia wine tour and we’ll introduce you to a few of these!
In Rome, there was a modern and slightly Zen version – the Kombucha Spritz.
Prosecco, Aperol, a splash of gin and a shot of Lemon Ginger Kombucha and soda. (substitute lemon soda & some candied ginger for the kombucha as it’s not easy to find in Italy).
In southern Tuscany, there’s a convivial bar on the piazza in San Quirico d’Orcia where a talented bartender makes a Spritz Viola, with Crème di Violette and a twist of lemon. Surprisingly different with a hint of floral – a good way to while away a hot Tuscan day in the shade!
In the historic center of Trapani, at 20 MQ, a wine store with a few tables, the owner makes one with Sicilian Amaro, an orange flavored digestivo. I was hooked after the first sip! (You can substitute Luxardo’s Aperitivo for the Amaro.)
High in the mountains of the Alto Adige, there’s a refreshing Elderberry Spritz, with elderberry liquore and a sprig of mint. Enjoy one on the river promenade in Merano and enjoy the people watching and the sound of the rushing water. (Pimm’s makes a version of the liquore.)
In a change from the sweet side, from the Veneto at Caffe Pedrocchi in Padua comes the ‘Green Spritz’. Made with P31, from 20 aromatic and medicinal herbs – vanilla, chamomile, linden flowers, sweet orange, the spices of cloves, ginger, cinnamon, coriander and marjoram, along with the strong taste of rhubarb, tamarind and gentian. Add a slice of lime for a green surprise!
For sitting in the sun to watch the passing boat traffic, the water sparkling like diamonds in the Grand Canal, Venice brings us the Spritz Tintoretto. Use pomegranate liquor; Luxardo makes one to try. Add a sprig of fresh rosemary and some pomegranate seeds.
Finally, in the land of the ‘king of wines’, in La Morra ,the heart of Piemonte, a corner bar can make a regional version, the Chinato Spritz. Made with Barolo Chinato, a sprinkle of nutmeg, a dash of tonic syrup, Prosecco and soda.
The Chinato formula is always secret, but there’s an infusion of dozen selected herbs from the hills of the Langhe, it’s added to Barolo wine and has a pleasant bitter note at the finish.