The Spritz

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.


The Spritz

  • 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.

  • Kristie

    I say insufferable things ALL THE TIME, sometimes in comments on other peoples’ blogs, and I still have a solid 5 readers, so you should be fiiiiine.

    The nosebleed alcohol description was so…descriptive…that I can actually taste the bitter, metallic taste in the back of my throat. Either that or it’s my morning cocaine drip. One can never be quite sure.

  • Jacquie

    Weather-related moodiness in my excuse for all my bad behavior. I totally know what you mean by inconvenient snow. Was it that wet, sticky stuff that cakes on the bottom of your shoes so that you grow taller with each step? Oh, and did the city plow the road onto the sidewalk so you are forced to walk in the street with traffic and the SUV moms who think nothing at swearing at you in front of their children (but you are the bad person for existing). Yeah, those are the scotch days. And the days I look for jobs in warmer climates.

    sorry for the rant. just expressing solidarity. ahem.

  • eileen

    I saw Cynar at the wine store a couple weeks ago, and was thinking: artichoke? How could you possibly use that? But lo, my questions are spontaneously answered, with no pesky research or anything! I can’t say I’m convinced to actually buy it, but still.

  • cayenne

    You guys need to move below the 401. We got off like bandits downtown – just a few flakes.

    On the other hand, the cold & wind are vicious in the wind tunnels below Bloor. The cider got heated, mulled & rum-spiked but good last night.

    • Mike

      I work downtown, so I went from snowy wastes to messy slush and back again. I don’t mind spitting on the ground whilst referring you city-dwellers.

      But I hear you about the wind. Our house is groaning tonight, and it’s calling for some lovely spiced vodka, that’s for sure.

  • lo

    Really? You need excuses like snow to drink? 🙂

    Seriously, though — bet that Cynar makes a mighty pretty green drink. I’ve never tried it, but I’m also suspecting it would taste pretty interesting. Even in a snow bank.

    • Tina

      If by “interesting” you mean “punishing”. I’m pretty flexible, right? There aren’t too many spirits that I don’t guzzle with glee. But then along came cynar…..shudder……. it can be too much even for lush-like me.

  • S.

    Yes, I agree that Venice is not the horrible tourist crowded place people make it out to be. The trick is to stay on one of the islands in the cultural center rather than outside it in the cheaper accommodation. Sure it costs more but just stay for a shorter time, you’ll actually enjoy it more.