Book Review: Spritz, Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail

March 22, 2016
Spritz, Italy's Most Iconic Aperitivo

A breezy little primer on the iconic Italian aperitivo…

I sipped my first spritz at a bar near Piazza Santo Stefano in Bologna, Italy a beautiful “square” (of an irregular shape) surrounded by seven churches, many of which are interconnected with one another.

Piazza Santo Stefano in Bologna

Piazza Santo Stefano in Bologna

Light, bubbly and a bit bitter, the bright orange drink was as pleasant and as easy to imbibe as a soft drink. With my husband and friends, we lingered at our outdoor table and enjoyed lively banter before dinner, munching on olives, chips and mini-paninis.

My Aperol Spritz in Bologna

My Aperol Spritz in Bologna

Aperol (screenshot)

Aperol (screenshot)

Many Italians, especially in northern Italy, congregate at bars and cafes in the evening (typically after 7PM) to meet for an aperitivo. The same term refers both to the drinks consumed AND the social ritual of leisurely meeting for a drink, nibbles and conversation.

An Italian friend told me that Italians rarely have work-related meetings over meals so aperitivo is a perfect time to meet colleagues in a convivial, unpressured setting.

Aperitivo time at Zanarini in Bologna

Aperitivo time at Zanarini in Bologna

Meeting for an aperitivo after work in Bologna

Colleagues and friends meeting for an aperitivo after work on an ancient street in Bologna

An Italian aperitivo (which is most often wine, vermouth, Campari and soda, an Americano, or a spritz cocktail) is intended to stimulate the appetite and “open up” the stomach before dinner.

Spritz: The Book

Spritz, Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail, with Recipes (Ten Speed Press, 2016) is a breezy little book filled with rich historical and cultural information about the spritz cocktail. The book includes beautiful art deco illustrations and graphics, as well as recipes for 50 classic and modern spritz cocktails from top mixologists so readers can make this delightful tradition one of their own.

Spritz menu in Bologna

Aperitivo menu at Mercato di Mezzo in Bologna

The authors, Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau, note that the Aperol Spritz has become the most popular cocktail in Italy.

I also learned from the book, perhaps late in life, that the term “cocktail” refers to any alcoholic drink with three or more ingredients.

During the 19th century, Austrian soldiers in Italy added a spritz (the German word for spray) of water to local wines that didn’t seem as pleasant tasting to them as their Rieslings.

Over time, the recipe morphed into one using soda water—and then bitters were added. The popularity of the drink spread not only to other parts of Italy but also to cities all over the world. One of the reasons why this cocktail is so popular and easy to drink is because of its relatively low alcohol content.

An orange spritz on King's Day in Amsterdam

An Aperol spritz on King’s Day in Amsterdam


According to this “bible of spritz,” the basic recipe for the cocktail today is as follows:

  • 3 parts Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine)
  • 2 parts bitter liqueur (like Aperol or Campari)
  • 1 part soda
  • With an orange or lemon slice, or olive for garnish.

Approximate calorie count  168 calories

according to

Spritz, Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail, with Recipes is a delightful little book—either to read as a primer before or after a trip to Italy—or to use as a recipe book and keep on a nearby shelf at home.

About the Authors:

TALIA BAIOCCHI is the editor-in-chief of Punch and the author of James Beard Award–nominated Sherry. She has written for Bon Appétit, Saveur, and many more. She lives in Brooklyn.

LESLIE PARISEAU is the former deputy editor of Punch. She has written for the New York Times, GQ, Esquire, and Saveur. She lives in Brooklyn.

Disclosure: We received a complimentary copy of this book for review but any opinions expressed in this post are our own. If you purchase the book through this website, we will make a small commission as Amazon Associates.

  • Reply
    March 22, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    Ooh, you brought back such great memories of when I tasted my very first Spritz…and it certainly wasn’t my last! We have them all the time now. I always have a bottle of Aperol on hand. Hey, let’s meet for a Spritz sometime soon!

  • Reply
    Sue Reddel
    March 22, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    I remember my first Aperol in Vienna spritzer fondly. I could use an apertif right about now. Sounds like an interesting little book.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      March 22, 2016 at 7:10 pm

      Isn’t it true that we always remember our first:-)

  • Reply
    Rachel Heller
    March 23, 2016 at 2:06 am

    I was just recently in Bologna and didn’t get a spritz because I didn’t know about it! I am curious what’s in an Americano…

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      March 23, 2016 at 9:32 am

      Don’t fret. You can order a spritz at any bar–albeit without the same ambiance:-)
      An Americano is a cocktail with Campari, sweet vermouth, and club soda.

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