My first Campari spritz was in Venezia of course, in 1984. I was hanging out with a couple of gondoliers after the Regata Storica. It was a hot and humid sunny day in September and the boys had a short break in the “taxi” line. Lino grabbed me and we headed down a small calle to a tiny little bar and ordered up a some spritz or “spriss.” In fact, the bar was loaded with a good 15 gondoliers all standing behind a clear glass with the most luscious looking red drink I had seen. Chin chin and down it went! It was god-awfully bitter. I almost thought it a joke on the young American gondolier, like a frat prank on a new pledge. They didn’t giggle though for this was their Gatorade, their rite of passion. Since then I have called it “the gondolier.”. I have now been officially addicted to the Campari spritz for almost 30 years. The intoxicating refreshing oh so satisfying mixture was this, but now has a few options. One part Campari, one part vino bianco and one part soda. Add a twist of lemon and an olive to step it up. I like Select which was born on the Giudecca. Campari is of course quite nice but Aperol has made a huge rush over the past 12 years or so. White wine is sometimes substituted with Prosecco which allows for the elimination of the soda but it takes a bit of the bitter away which is what I crave, it’s the addictive part. I have spent so many hours in the alleys, canals and lagoon of Venezia that the warm summer wind has brushed the back of my neck from every direction,at every sun level and color a Venetian sunset has to offer. A spritz to me is the color of the perfect sunset. A “spriss” IS the lagoon, the campo, the church bells,the chit chat and chicchetti. So now i can be any where in the world, and not unlike Pavlovs dogs, a certain warm wind on my neck, or a sparkle on the water or the color of a sunset can cause instant salivation that can only be satiated by a Perfect Spritz. Hard to find but not impossible! I always keep a bottle of Select or Campari in the freezer. So here I sit, on a beached Gondola in Alamitos Bay, Long Beach. I just finished painting and varnishing the gondola and a warm breeze lifted off the shimmering bay at sunset. My mouth became moist, i knew it was happening and i knew what to do. I am now half way through a perfect “spriss.” Viva Venezia!! Otolini And guess what? It’s DECEMBER! So grab a spriss or maybe a big bottle of Red and come on down for a cruise of Lights. Or how about the ultimate gift of Venezia, a bottle of Campari, some soda and white wine and a Gondola gift certificate. Who wouldn’t want that for Christmas!

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