How Britain Killed The Aperol Spritz

Since arriving in a small town near Venice five years ago, there is one part of my daily routine that hasn’t changed. As the heat of a summer day begins to abate around 7pm, I sit outside my local bar in the piazza with a tumbler of bright orange spritz and a plate of pre-dinner snacks selected from the free buffet, meeting friends or simply enjoying the convivial atmosphere.

It is what most travellers expect to find when they visit nearby Venice, but ironically the new-found international love of Aperol spritz has meant this genuine social moment with cheap drinks and free food has almost all but disappeared from the city.

A combination of Aperol, prosecco and soda water, the spritz is a long-established drink in Italy—water and wine have been a combination popular since Roman times, and the 1920s saw a nationalist call for the production of Italian-made bitters like Aperol, Campari, and Venetian Select to be added to the combination. In the north of Italy, a spritz of any kind is one of the most ordinary, ubiquitous drinks, aligned with no particular age group, class, social status or trend.

In London, however, it’s fashionable bars that now all seem to offer the orange nectar or some kind of spin-off. The Aperol spritz has shown itself to be the ideal product for commodification and consumption by the new millennial ‘hipster’ generation, a group which Elias le Grand, senior lecturer at Stockholm University, defines as “engaged in a particular set of reflexive and trendy consumption practices, often performed in gentrified urban spaces and linked to the creative industries.”

Playing on the predictability of such ‘hipster’ tastes, Campari mostly bypassed traditional marketing techniques and focused on social media-friendly events and pop-up bars. Last year, trendy Shoreditch was home to the Aperol Spritz Social, where guests could row down a lurid orange canal, sit on a carousel of stools mimicking the back half of a Vespa, and drink beneath glaring neon lights forming a giant spritz glass.

Other bars around the UK have hosted their own Spritz Socials, decking out their interiors in Campari’s standard strident orange merchandise like an outdoor bar with fake orange shutters attached to each side, an orange Vespa, or a cardboard cut-out version, equipped with matching helmets ready for the perfect “it-could-be-Italy” shot, and a plentiful supply of garish Aperol-branded accessories, from flip flops to sunglasses, to pepper Instagram photos.

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