The Campari company launched a bold campaign four years ago to make Aperol Spritz the summer drink. It worked. It worked. The bright red-orange glass flooded bar patios all over the country. While its popularity decreased slightly in 2018, the bubbly cocktail remains present. This year, however, I noticed a slight change: Instead of one orange wheel (or half-moon slice), spritzes now come with briny green olives.
Although salty olives may seem counterintuitive in a mostly sweet, slightly bitter beverage, they have been there since the beginning. The Venetian spritz was invented in Venice in 1920. An olive garnish was included in the original recipe. I have not found out why Campari removed the olive from the recipe. However, my gut says they did so to deference American drinkers who can be a bit weird about mixing sweet and tart. This is just a guess, but we are a simple bunch on a global level.
Flavor-wise, an olive is a good choice. I would choose a bitterer bitter, such as Cynar or Campari, over Aperol, one of the sweetest offerings in this genre. A briny olive is an excellent addition to an aperitif. Instead of being sweet, bitter, and slightly acidic, it gives your taste buds a bit of salty spice.
I didn’t get it. Even though the olive was in the original cocktail recipe, I couldn’t figure out why I saw it in spritzes everywhere I looked. To learn more about spritzes’ salty transformation, I contacted food and beverage writer Alicia Kennedy. She wrote me via direct Twitter: “I think people just love olives.” It gives off a sophisticated vibe along with the rocks glasses. The martini resurgence made the olive a more sought-after garnish for a spritz. Alicia agrees. “The salt compliments that sweetness and bitterness much better than an orange,” she wrote.
I am glad that olives have made their way back into the spritz. You can make your own Venetian by adding an olive to any recipe. You know me. I love multiple garnishes.