On my return to Britain this year I was initially pleasantly surprised, and then quickly greatly dismayed, to discover that Aperol Spritz is making it big time here. My initial positive reaction was purely relief that I wouldn’t have to survive two weeks without that orange nectar, but it was swiftly followed by horror at the extortionate prices of such an ordinary drink, which in Italy is drunk with abandon almost like lemonade. Furthermore, despite being a desperately simple combination of ingredients, most bars don’t mix it as well as in Italy. But, travesty of all travesties, worse than too much water or no orange slice, there is no free accompanying food!
It is almost a blasphemy to offer the classic aperitivo drink without the surrounding gastronomic paraphernalia. At the most basic bar in Italy, a spritz is automatically accompanied by crisps or olives, which you absentmindedly graze upon without even registering their presence. The most astute bars offer delicate tramezzini, king of aperitivo food, or cicchetti with various toppings, or even pasta.
Well, thanks to the simplicity of the spritz you can easily whip up an envy-inducing aperitivo at home with all the edible additions, without paying the same amount it costs for a whole bottle of Aperol in Italy for one watered down glass in Britain.
Make your own Italian aperitivo!
Following the advice on the garish orange website of Aperol, the standard spritz recipe is:
- 6 cl Prosecco
- 4 cl Aperol
- Splash of Soda water
This should be mixed into a glass with plenty of ice and garnished with a slice of orange and an olive on a long stick.
A dash of soda may help to keep at bay the hangover, but hardcore, small town aperitivo drinkers would strangle the bar man if he tried to dilute their mix. To make this version simply eliminate the water.
Some prefer to mix their spritz with Campari, which is a little more bitter than Aperol and pink in colour. To make this use the same ratios as the Aperol spritz recipe but replacing the Aperol with Campari.
The Negroni is a potent mix of all things alcoholic: mix together 1 part gin, 1 part Campari, and 1 part Sweet red Vermouth, and garnish with a slice of orange.
Unbeknownst to most, the ‘original’ spritz was supposedly invented by Austrian soldiers in Northern Italy in the 19th century. In order to render the inferior Italian wines a little more palatable, they added a ‘spritz’ of water. This combination is predominantly drunk in Trieste and is called spritz bianco. Simply eliminate the Aperol from the mix.
The latest spritz trend is the Hugo (unfortunately difficult for Italians to pronounce). For this you need:
- 15 cl Prosecco
- 2 cl lemon balm syrup
- Splash of Soda water
- Mint leaves and a slice of lime to garnish
On the Table
From Venetian seafood classics to deep fried treats that would be more at home in Scotland, nowadays almost anything miniaturised into a mouthful can be found on the aperitivo table.
The Venetian version requires dried cod soaked in water for 24hrs then boiled in milk for 20 minutes. Once soft, remove any skin or bone, whiz it in a food blender til creamy and season with oil, salt, black pepper, and parsley. It can then be eaten on its own or on a little piece of crispy bread.
See full recipe here.
You need soft white bread with no crusts and fillings like mayonnaise, prosciutto, tuna, and olives to make these delectable mini sandwiches.
Mostly commonly cicchetti are pieces of crispy white bread topped with anything that takes you fancy. Think paté, tomatoes drizzled with oil, prosciutto, mayonnaise based sauces, and seafood.