The Spritz: from Austria to Venice, and back

As I’ve written in the past (spritz), going to the piazza for a “spritz” is one of my favorite ways to spend a hour with friends in the evening.

The history behind the spritz is interesting too: after the Napoleonic wars, the Austrians gained control of much of the Veneto. Being a hotter clime than they were accustomed to, and being more of a wine-drinking region rather than a beer-drinking one like much of Austria, the soldiers stationed there needed something to drink that wasn’t too alcoholic, because they needed to drink lots to quench their thirst. Their drink of choice was apparently a forerunner of the “wine spritzer” – white wine mixed with water. Both English and German use the word “spritzer” for fizzy water and wine, and of course is not at all specific to the Veneto. The key ingredient in the version native to the Veneto is Aperol or Campari, which give the drink its distinctive color and taste.

I’m not the only one who likes to drink a spritz now and then, and it has been slowly spreading in popularity in Italy, or at least northern Italy. Interestingly enough, it seems to have finally made it over the border back into Innsbruck, Austria, where we live. When we moved there a year ago, no one had heard of it, although they did know what it was just over the border in Vipiteno/Sterzing, where it goes by the name of “venetian spritz” or simply “venetian” amongst the German speaking inhabitants who don’t call it simply a “spritz”, because they’ve had “spritzer” all along. However, earlier this year, we started seeing “venetian spritzes” in Innsbruck, as well as a big, poster style ad for Aperol touting the spritz as a fashionable Italian drink. It’s funny to think how long it’s taken, but the “spritz” has come full circle, from Austria, to Italy and back.

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