We were at The Red Caffe (it is also affectionately called Caffe Rosso as it’s painted a brilliant red) when we realised the signature aperitif at POLPO needed to be a Spritz. We still use this same recipe that they use in this tiny Venetian student bar. You could stand inside the bar with the huge brass and copper Elektra coffee machine looking like a rocket ship from a Jules Verne story, the impossibly thick tramezzini sandwiches filled to within an inch of their lives with egg and tinned tuna and the cool tattooed kids on both sides of the bar, or you could pay a few cents extra and sit outside. Here, at your table, with your Spritz in hand, you can survey the greatest single slice of Venetian life you will get in one sitting. Forget St Mark’s Square, for all life is here.

A Spritz is a mixture of white wine (sometimes Prosecco is used), a bitter such as Campari or Aperol and a splash of soda water. The garnish should always be a slice of lemon and sometimes an olive too. Of course, there are many ways to make this drink and you will always find someone with a strong opinion telling you that it must be made this way or should never be made like that… Well, this is how we make ours.

The only choice you have to make is Campari or Aperol. The former has a sharp, bitter quality and gives the drink more of a punch. The latter is slightly sweeter, still with an underlying bitterness, but is milder too with only 11 per cent alcohol compared to 25 per cent. Campari was invented in 1860 by Gaspare Campari and to this day, the exact recipe remains a closely guarded secret. The distinctive red hue comes from the original addition of crushed cochineal insects. Aperol is flavoured with gentian flowers, orange, rhubarb and cinchona bark and was developed by the Barbieri family of Padua in 1919.

For one:
1 large green olive, drained of brine
75ml white wine – something simple from Veneto like a Garganega or a Pinot Bianco
50ml either Campari or Aperol
Splash of soda water
1 slice of lemon

Take a large tumbler and fill it with ice. Push a large green olive (not one that has been kept in oil) onto the end of a cocktail skewer and pop it in the bottom of the glass. Pour the wine. Pour the Campari or Aperol. Add a short squirt of soda water and then a slice of lemon.

Dorsoduro 2963, Campo Santa Margherita – Vaporetto Ca’ Rezzonico
Telephone: (+39) 041 528 7998

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The Polpo Team