It snowed today, for the first time this winter. But not politely, and not properly or with appropriate consideration for me, the average pedestrian.
Rather, it belched forth snow, a sustained discharge that dumped exactly enough precipitation for it to take twice the energy than usual to walk to work, and one thousand times the required effort to get Tina’s car in the garage. It meant getting through the door at an ungodly hour, having an entirely impolite discussion with the previously-unseen ice patches on the porch and their unacceptable attitude about causing my body to fall heavily onto the ground, and then a long, long stare into the liquor cabinet.
Please note: I am not suggesting that a cocktail will solve all of your post-work, after-snow, stress-related, sleep-depriving, weight-gaining, and-it’s-not-even-Christmas-yet issues. Drinking alcohol purely for those purposes cannot entirely address your problems.
But it feels like it can sometimes.
For me, it’s about invoking a pleasant memory of an afternoon I spent a couple of years ago, lounging around in Venice and wondering what I was going to do next. I know how insufferable that sounds, but understand that I’ve only ever been on two trips in my life, and hopefully that redeems me a little — and even if it doesn’t, well, ask yourself how many times you daydream about a vacation after you chip solid ice off of your driveway and then cast the first stone.
So anyway, while I was chucking frozen chunks of ice out onto the street, I was thinking about the time I came around a corner and saw this:
…if only to remind myself that there are places that are nice, warm and not at all likely to be coated in ice. Submerged beneath a lagoon, perhaps — but at least not so friggin’ cold.
I know loads of people who absolutely hated Venice when they visited, finding it confusing or smelly, flooded or crowded. I don’t know if I was just lucky or oblivious, but the days I spent there were so warm and so relaxing that I had no problem at all with it. And as far as the crowds went, the greatest drawback to Venice — the totally pedestrian-hostile sidewalks — were to me its greatest asset: tourists rarely strayed off the most popular paths for fear of becoming hopelessly lost, so all I had to do was wander a little, and I’d never have to deal with a single bewildered tour group.
And it also meant that I could find delightful little bars, entirely devoid of annoying visitors like me, in which I could relax and allow my feet time to swell painfully.
Plus I got to enjoy one of the most refreshing, summery drinks I’ve had in ages: the Spritz. Originally an Austrian import, the Spritz has become inseparable from Venice — they’re everywhere, a drink taken by all levels of local society, and it’s perfect for the climate. A simple concoction of wine, soda and bitters, it’s a drink I still crave whenever I want to remember a warm day spent staring at the canals.
- A handful of ice cubes
- 2 oz. of Prosecco (or a sparkling white wine, if you’re not feeling so italiano)
- 1/2 oz. of sparkling water
- 1 oz. of either
- For bitter-sweet: Aperol, a bright red citrus bitter, fruitier and less alcoholic than Campari
- For full-on bitter: Campari
- For man-this-is-different: Cynar, which is a dark green liqueur most heavily flavored by artichokes, and offers an aftertaste not unlike copper. If you’re excited about a liqueur that tastes like a nosebleed, Cynar is there for you.
Over the ice, first pour the sparkling wine and then the liqueur, finishing the glass with the seltzer. The striking color, regardless of which bitters you choose, will quickly become apparent.
Skewer an orange or lemon, slice or peel and a green olive with the pit in onto a long skewer — if you have the kind you use for your BBQ knocking around, that’s ideal. Stir gently to mix the liqueur with the sweetness of the wine, and allow the oils from your garnishes to get into the mix, but not so hard that you kill the essential fizz.
Your reward will be a bright, surprisingly complex and enjoyable drink that you can guzzle quickly, or nurse gently as it gets your appetite revved up. And if you don’t happen to be sitting in the bright sun, listening to the boats roll by on the canal, the flavors will do you the favor of taking you there.
Easy to make, catchy to the eye and the palette, the Spritz is a classic that will delight guests and invoke the Mediterranean in a way that they might not have had the chance to enjoy. It’s a bright addition to a dark winter night, and once I don’t mind dragging me back to warmer times.