Podcast Summary:

“Anyway, I’ll Drink to That” is a Boozn Sam’s production, exploring the fun, quirky, and fascinating tales of drinks (The Aperol Spritz recipe in this episode) that define culture, history and the world. Every drink has a story to tell, and I’m going to tell it…as true as I can. Hosted by Sam, from Boozn Sam’s. Saddle up with a good cocktail and give me a few minutes of your time for a mystery surrounding a drink that changed the world.

TLDR; – The Aperol Spritz Recipe –

  • Double shot (3 oz) of Aperol
  • Double shot (3 oz) of Prosecco
  • A shot (1.5 oz) of club soda
  • Ice
  • And an orange wedge as a garnish.

Episode 11 Details:

The Aperol Spritz Recipe dates back to 1809 and the loss of Venetian Independence after 1,100 years in Italy through the conquest of Napolean Bonapart. 1,100 years of freedom. 1,100 years is older than the Roman Empire, 4 times older than the United States of America and 13.5 times the lifespan of the average human.

Transcript of Podcast:

*This is the entire podcast episode in written form. Do not read if you want the audio version to be spoiled.

The year was 1809 and the Italians were sick of it. What was it exactly? It’s an age old story, the battle of sovereign individual against the state. Being controlled. Being treated like chess pieces here to serve their masters. The last decade alone had been a trying one. 

Not only was this a time before modern medicine, where everything could, and usually did kill you. On top of that there was a tiny, nuisance of a man with a big complex. He took his tiny stature and swung himself throughout Europe, conquering and pillaging in the name of himself. But, this tiny man had a big military brain.

Napoleon rose to power the first time through a well orchestrated coup in France. That was in November of 1799. And by 1805 he’d renamed himself the Emperor of France, while also, at around that same time, crowning himself king of another kingdom, one he conquered.. 

Napoleon might have said his military campaigns were for France, but someone who compensated for his shortcomings as much as Napoleon did, didn’t have room for anyone else. We’ve all met people like this. And they suck…both the air out of every room they enter, and actually in real life as humans. Napoleon was no different, and, in fact, was such a narcissist that a phrase -The Napoleon Complex – actually bears his name. 

From the late 1790s on, he’d been working to wrestle Italian land away from Italy. And in 1805, he grasp a specific region in his grubby little fingers and ended an astonishing 1,100 years of Venetian independence by capturing the city of Venice. 

1,100 years. 

Take a moment and let that number sink in. 

For perspective, that’s almost 4 times older than the United States of America.

The famous Roman Empire lasted for less than 1,000 years.

That’s 13.5 times longer than the average human lifespan of 75 years.

So, given today’s life expectancy, which is higher than it was back then by quite a few years, that would represent over 13 generations.

13 generations of Italians lived and died in this independent city. 

Until Napoleon arrived and ripped it all away and turned the land over to the Kingdom of Italy. land…which was overseen by the, if you ask him, infallible, King of Italy – Napoleon himself.

During his campaigns through Italy he depleted the country, taking, in today’s prices, $12 million in jewels and precious metals, $45 million in funds, and over 300 pieces of priceless art. His military genius also led him to capture 150,000 Italian prisoners and over 500 cannons. 

So, when the Italian Pheasants finally got so sick of him they wanted to take action, he had a mighty war chest and a good chunk of the advanced world under his command. The war of 1809, the War of the Fifth Coalition, pitted Italian farmers on one side, who had aligned with the Austrians and Italian nobility on the other, who were aligned with France and Napoleon. 

In 1814 they secured partial success and became a separate kingdom of the Austrian Empire, which would prove on a turning point for many reasons, but, here, for only one reason that matters to us. The influence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from this point on would create a new technique for making cocktails, that would end up being used to create many drinks in the distant future, including one, which is the subject of our story today. 

The Austro-Hungarian Empire was comprised of the Austrian Monarchy and the Hungarian Monarchy. It operated as a dual monarchy. Two kingdoms. One Monarchy to rule them both. 

And, just like France, it had a contested hold and desire to take this part of Italy as its own for quite some time. Napoleon just beat them to the punch. 

But, a fast way to turn your enemy into your friend is through the introduction of another enemy, one more powerful. One that’s wronged you more. 

So, when France took control of this Italian region…to Italian farmers, the Austro-Hungarian Empire weren’t looking so bad.

At this point, Napoleon had more enemies than friends, and wrestling back control of this land was possible. So it happened. And peace resumed. An unsettling peace, with the black mark of freedom that wasn’t true freedom lingering in the back of the minds of Italians.

It would be a generation later until this Italian region would return to Italy and move away from it’s proxy reign by the Austro-Hungarian empire. By this point the damage would have been done, over and over again, drink by drink, until the beverage that came into existence during the early and mid 1800’s, through 1860, became a cultural phenomenon. 

The damage would have also been done with the Austrians and Hungarians and the Seven Week War would signal the end of this dual monarchy. The Seven Week War has many other names too. But, it was basically was a civil war between Austria, Germany, Italy, Hungary, The Dutch, and even Russia. 

It was a great carving apart of a massive empire, and anytime great empires fall, great pain ensues. This time was no different. 

Germany called it the war of brothers…and, as friendships and familial bonds were stressed and broken, I’m sure it felt like that. 

Austrians during this time, and even before this time, when they were protecting Austro-Hungarian interests in Italy, needed something to pass the time and steady the nerves. So, they turned to drink, but not any drink. 

Because, you see, the wine in Italy was much stronger and harsher than what the sophisticated Austrians were used too…(or maybe it was the other way around).

Either way, they took to cutting the wine they drank in order to make it more palatable and, I’m assuming, win that most ridiculous and foolish of all games called “Whoever gets the drunkest wins.”

It didn’t take much altering to make the drinks appealing to the taste buds of the Austrians. Just a dash, really.

And dash after dash, led to a drink today, that’s extremely popular. 

But, before that dash and the other Italian liquor that would also be part of this cocktail, The Kingdom of Italy agreed to enter the Seven Week War on the side of Austria. Part of the deal was the ability to reclaim the region of ( (Ven – ah – too) Veneto, which had the 1,100 year old fallen free capital of Venice. 

And after the war ended, the Italians, so disgusted with Austria’s suggestion that Italy purchase the Ven – ah – toh region from them that they went to war for it.

I can imagine at this time the Austrians still stationed throughout the castles and fortifications of Italy, added a dash of water, once more to their strong Italian wine, cursed in German under their breath and picked up their weapons once more.

Eventually, after the end of the war the land went to France, as a neutral party, before it was reclaimed, at no cost besides thousands of humans lives, to Italy.

The Austrians hung around for a bit longer at the fortresses, no doubt trying to enjoy as much of the wine, dashed with a bit of water, as long as possible.

Upon their departure, they would leave behind, among many imprints, this dash of water, 

Which eventually turned into a dash of carbonated water,

Which they called by the original German name for splash

A spritz

And it would be this idea of diluting a strong flavored drink with a bit of water that would live on through 1940 and the creation of Aperol,

Which would then be used to create another unique drink with that bitter Italian liquor,

The Aperol Spritz Recipe

  • Equal parts Aperol and prosecco
  • A dash, a spritz, of soda
  • Ice
  • And an orange wedge as a garnish.

A refreshing drink that harbors none of the politics and fighting and death of a 1,100 year old independent republic

And all of the refreshing feel of freedom and uplifting effervescence 

That a small dash,

A spritz,

Can create. 

Anyway…I’ll drink to that.