If you find Campari to be a bit too bitter and aren’t always in the mood for the sweet orange notes in Aperol, there’s another Italian liqueur to splash over your Prosecco- and soda-filled glasses during aperitivo hour, arguably the absolute best time of the day.
Invented in the 1960s, the Select Spritz (also called the Venetian Spritz) is a quintessential Venetian aperitif sipped at bars across the city like Caffè Florian and Caffè Quadri. Mix a batch and you and your friends can imagine you are at a table overlooking the Bridge of Sighs contemplating a gondola ride to dinner at the super swanky Gritti Palace. Molto bene.
The base for this effervescent refresher is Select Aperitivo, a liqueur invented in Venice in 1920 by brothers Mario and Vittoria Pilla. Soon after founding spirits company Fratelli Pilla and Co. the duo created an expression using thirty different botanicals sourced around the globe, including juniper berries and rhubarb. Serving it to Gabriele D’Annunzio on a dinner celebrating the Feast of the Redeemer stirred the famous poet to use the word “Select” — short for the Latin “selectus” — to describe their product as his favorite aperitif, and the classic was born.
“Venice is at the heart of Spritz culture and consuming a Select Spritz during Aperitivo is a ritual,” says Christina Berardi, Select Aperitivo’s Brand Ambassador of the Americas. “If you take a stroll through Venice in the late afternoon you will notice a Select Spritz accompanying cicchetti [bar snacks] on almost every table.”
The recipe for Select Spritz is quite simple and requires no cocktail shaker; simply pour three parts Prosecco, two parts Select Aperitivo and a splash of soda water into a wine glass over ice. You’ll be forgiven if the ratios are off a little, especially after consuming a few, but the drink will still be delish. And the finishing touch is a savory and surprising adornment: a large green Castelvetrano olive, which evokes an image of the Italian flag and gives the libation a mouthwatering brininess.
The Spritz itself was invented in the Veneto during the 1800s when the region was ruled by the Habsburg Empire. Soldiers began “spraying” the local white wine with sparkling water to give it a lower abv (the German term was “spritzen”) and the beloved tipple was invented.
But while this version might resemble the iteration made with Campari, the taste is decidedly different. “Select Aperitivo highlights notes of juniper berries and bitter rhubarb root, whereas Aperol really leans into its orange notes,” Berardi points out.
She adds, “Select is characterized by five aromatic notes: Floral, vegetal, woodsy, citrusy and spicy, every note shines on your palate, but not one overwhelms another, and they play beautifully with the effervescence of Prosecco and soda in the Spritz.” Robust, savory and dry, it’s a kinder, gentler Spritz and a great way to whet your whistle and kick off a meal.
While there might not be all that much to toast in 2020, you can raise a ruby-hued glass and celebrate a hundred years of a spirit that’s intrinsically Italian, and daydream about your next trip to the City of Bridges.
Thirsty yet? Here’s how to make the Select Spritz, courtesy of Select Aperitivo:
The Select Spritz
3 parts chilled La Marca Prosecco
2 parts Select Aperitivo
Splash soda water
1 large Castelvetrano olive
Fill a large wine glass with ice. Pour the Prosecco, Select Aperitivo and soda water into the wine glass, stir gently and garnish with the olive.