The Spritz at Mitte: out with the still wine and soda, and hello prosecco
Louche is a word often attached to the atmosphere cocktails are drunk in, if not the drinks themselves. With The Spritz from Mitte we’re looking at a very louche combination – mixing references to old roués, Romantic poets and Berlin bunker bars.
The original spritzer, a mix of hock, a sweet white German wine, and sour soda water, has been with us for some time, but its existence still came as a surprise to the eccentric old goat of a British politician and diarist, Alan Clark.
One night he takes a female companion to the theatre and in the bar afterwards Clark orders “a quite decent bottle of gewürztraminer”, only to be horrified when the lady “sliced through whatever inanity I was saying and asked the wine waiter to pour some soda water, which she made him pour onto the delicious white wine”. While the waiter “didn’t bat an eyelid”, Clark commented: “Very Byronic.”
In fact, Lord Byron thought of the spritzer as a hangover cure rather than cause, writing in his poem Don Juan:
Get very drunk; and when
You wake with headache, you shall see what then.
Ring for your valet – bid him quickly bring
Some hock and soda-water, then you’ll know
A pleasure worthy Xerxes the great king
Nowadays the German-born drink is a staple of Italian life, the spritz, drunk as an aperitivo and with added bitters such as Aperol or Campari. At the German-Italian bar and kitchen Mitte in Hong Kong, it’s called The Spritz (HK$78) and given a significant twist. Mitte’s drink is basically bitters and sparkling wine on ice.
The bar itself is a collaboration between Piero Zanatta (Italian), Lars Rottmann (German) and Richard McCabe (American), all friends from Berlin who met again in Sheung Wan and wanted a hangout after their own fashion.
Creative director Zanatta is from Treviso, just north of Venice in Italy, but he spent three years in Berlin and loved the trendsetting city, where he pursued a career in fashion and design. He went back to his roots, though, when he designed Mitte’s drinks. The Treviso area is home to grappa, the Italian sparkling wine prosecco and the Negroni distillery, manufacturers of the bitters Eleven and Bitter.
The distillery’s 11 per cent alcohol Eleven is used as a substitute for Aperol, which has the same strength, and the Bitter as a substitute for Campari, at 25 per cent alcohol. Instead of wine and soda water, the drink has Italian sparkling wine, in this case from the Col Saliz winery.
Light orange, the Sweet Spritz lives up to its name, while the Bitter Spritz has a greater depth of flavour. Both certainly stimulate the appetite and take the rough edge off a long day, as an aperitif should. I think two would be the limit before moving on to another drink.
Valets may have gone out of fashion but sadly hangovers haven’t, so here’s how to make The Spritz at home.
40ml Eleven bitters (substitute Aperol)
Garnish with a slice of orange
40ml Bitter bitters (substitute Campari)
Garnish with a lemon slice.
For both, stir together with plenty of ice