This Spritz Is the Secret to Drinking Like a Local in Venice — Here's Where to Get One
When you think of a Spritz, Aperol might be the first aperitivo that comes to mind. And while we’ve had our fair share of the bright red liqueur, there’s been another Italian bitter on the tips of our tongues as of late. Select Aperitivo is a little bit darker, a little more bitter, and has a smoother, more refined flavor than Aperol. Not to mention, it’s the drink of choice for Venetians when imbibing in the canal-lined city.
Select was created by the Pilla brothers in 1919 and trademarked in 1920 (the brand celebrates its 100th this year), and it gained strong popularity straight away. At that time, there was no bridge connecting Venice and the mainland, so the city became a place for Italy’s elite to vacation, as it could only be reached by private boat. They would come to Venice, drink Select, and then spread the word about the aperitivo to people in their hometowns. At that time, it was quite expensive, so it would be sipped on its own with a little bit of ice or with a small splash of soda water.
This addition of water became known as a Spritz, but it wasn’t the Italians who invented the cocktail. In the late 1800s and early 20th century, Venice was under the dominion of the Austrian empire. Off-duty soldiers would visit Venice’s bars, known as bacari, to sample the local wine. But the white wines of Venice were too strong for their palates, so they’d ask for a “spritzen” of water to be added to the wine. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the current iteration of the Select Spritz was born with the very important addition of prosecco to give the drink a lively effervescence and punched-up ABV. If you make it today, it calls for three ounces of prosecco, two ounces of Select, and a splash of soda water.
If you’ve had a Spritz before, it was likely garnished with an orange peel or other type of citrus. But the Select Spritz is garnished with a green olive, which is very symbolic of how people in Venice imbibe. In the mid- to late-afternoon, Venetians go to a bacaro, order a Spritz and two to three cicchetti, which are small, tapas-like bites. This gives them a little pick-me-up and burst of energy to carry on with their day. The olive garnish in a Select Spritz symbolizes this traditional snack and also adds a beautiful touch of brine to the drink, which breaks down the sweetness and complements the aperitvo’s bitter flavor.
Venice is full of wonderful places to drink a Select Spritz, but these are some of our absolute favorites. The next time you find yourself in the canal-lined Italian city, pull up to one of these spots, order a cicchetto, and live like the Venetians do.
The St. Regis Venice
This gorgeous hotel was just renovated this summer, and its striking, plush interior and tranquil garden overlooking the Grand Canal is the stuff of Venetian dreams. There are three ways to get your Select Spritz fix at The St. Regis. Gio’s restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating and dishes like beef cheek risotto and almond-crusted wild branzino to accompany your drink. The classic St. Regis Bar is ideal for watching the sunset, Spritz in hand, over the Grand Canal. And Arts Bar is our favorite place for a nightcap where we recommend using Select in place of Campari in a classic Negroni.
Restaurant Terrazza Danieli
Perched on the roof of Hotel Danieli, one of Venice’s oldest and most opulent hotels, Restaurant Terrazza Danieli offers the most sweeping views of the city. Stop by in the afternoon and grab a seat on the terrace so you can watch the boats go by as you sip. They have plenty of salty snacks to accompany your Select Spritz, like charcuterie platters with pickled veggies and focaccia, beef tartare, and a bright caprese salad with buffalo mozzarella, burrata, and olives.
A journey to Venice isn’t complete without a trip to Murano, one of the city’s islands that is famous for glass blowing. After touring its narrow streets and checking out a glass-blowing demonstration, settle in at the cozy Osteria Acquastanca for lunch. A Select Spritz pairs perfectly with the restaurant’s briny fish dishes, like anchovies with buffalo mozzarella and baccala served with sardines and onions over creamy polenta. The octopus, which is accompanied by greens and a chickpea puree, is one of our favorite dishes in the city.
You have to be a little bit of a tourist in Venice, and this is our favorite place to take in the sights and sounds of the city’s busiest locale. Situated right in the action of Piazza San Marco, Caffè Florian has been serving Venetians and visitors since 1720, and it is likely the oldest, continuously operating coffee house in Italy. You can take a seat inside the art-filled, gilded interior or snag a seat outside to hear the live band playing the afternoon away. Caffè Florian has an abundance of delicious cicchetti to accompany your Select Spritz, like sandwiches stuffed with tuna and olives or quiche filled with salmon, veggies, and even pappardelle and ragù.
The Aman Venice may be the most luxurious place to get your Spritz on. The hotel’s grand frescoed interiors and impeccable service will make you feel like royalty. On fair afternoons, settle into the garden for a Select Spritz and cicchetti as you watch boats pass by on the Grand Canal. Small bites like crispy gnocchi with baccala and vitello tonnato (cold sliced veal dressed with a creamy tuna sauce) will satiate you until dinnertime. The Aman Venice bar is also a must-see, so sink into one of its leather chairs and treat yourself to that second Spritz.