It might be the birthplace of the Bellini but to look like a local in Venice you have to sip a Spritz. Pop your head through the door of Harry’s Bar just off Piazza San Marco, catapulted to fame by Ernest Hemingway and his cronies back in the 1930s (www.cipriani.com). But as the tourists wait patiently for the tiny, overpriced champagne and peach puree cocktails – slope off to find a tiny bacaro and join the locals propping up the bar.
There are four main types of Venetian Spritz and everyone has their favourite. There’s Spritz al Bitters (Campari), Spritz con Cynar (artichoke aperitif), Spritz with Select (Select Pilla) and Spritz a l’Aperol. The mixers are all amari or Italian bitters. Artichoke might be the distinguishing ingredient of Cynar, but it’s made up of a medley of herbs. Aperol, meanwhile, is a lurid orange concoction containing rhubarb, gentian and bitter orange.
To make a Venetian Spritz you clunk a few chunks of ice into a glass. Add two parts dry white wine, a dash of sparkling water – or squirt of soda water, then one part bitters mixer. Traditionally, with the Aperol or Select you garnish with a slice of orange, with Campari or Cynar a twist of lemon and a green olive. For a bit of extra pizzazz some bartenders use prosecco instead of white wine.
Then sip with tapas-style cicchetti standing up at an old wooden counter in one of the bacari peppered throughout the city or recline as the sun goes down on aterrace overlooking the Grand Canal or the lagoon. And savour the wonderful mouthy mix of gently sparkling sweetness, bitters, and citrus notes.