Shhhh! Venice’s best kept secret

Looking for a seductive, grown-up cocktail that’s both easy to throw together and has a refreshing and complex flavour? Prepare to never want to drink anything else ever again. (Scroll down to the bottom to get straight to the recipe!)

One of Venice’s best kept secrets, the Select spritz has long been hailed by locals as one of Venice’s most celebrated exports. In fact, the 100th anniversary is just around the corner, but despite its upcoming centenary the botanical blend is still very much a secret outside of Italy.

So the Select brand invited myself and some others to try a cocktail (or five) and to better understand the history behind this Venetian spritz. And where better to learn about the aperitif than Venice itself? I didn’t need asking twice. 

And so I packed an overnight bag, kissed the dog and baby goodbye and escaped for a whirlwind 24 hours in the floating city.

From the moment you land it’s a little bit of heaven. Unlike most airports, getting into town or to your hotel from Venice airport is far from stressful. Right outside was a dock of taxi boats, where we jumped aboard our hotel’s taxi and sped away into the distance, headed for mainland Venice.

Nowhere in the world are taxis as glamorous as they are in Venice! Arriving on the glittering Grand Canal in our glossy, mahogany speed boat, we felt straight out of a Bond film.

The warm sea breeze swept our faces while the city unfolded in front of our eyes.

Venice is one of those cities that’s on everyone’s bucket list, and rightfully so. Made up of 117 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges, Venice is regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

We sailed through the lagoon, past palaces, houses and monuments, the warm light dancing off the stone architecture.

We pulled up outside the Hotel Danieli, one of the oldest hotels in Venice,  where we paused for a moment among the gondolas bobbing up and down all waiting for space to unload their passengers.

We crossed the impressive lobby area, with stained glass windows and mesmerising Murano glass chandeliers, and crammed into a tiny wooden lift up to the restaurant.

Select Spritz cocktails were already waiting for us at the bar, each one garnished with a juicy green olive.

Made from a blend of over 30 botanicals, the Select spritz feels fresher, lighter and more savoury than the more well-known Aperol spritz. A Select spritz is not unlike a gin and tonic, and the cocktail has both citrus and floral tones, brought about by the inclusion of juniper berries among others. Because of its relatively high alcohol content (17.5% compared to for example Aperol’s 11.5%), the Aperitif can be enjoyed in many different ways. The classic version combines it with prosecco, but I preferred a simple Select and Soda water (1 part Select, 2 parts Soda). A great cocktail to drink, despite its simplicity, as the complex flavours of Select shine through while still having enough ‘kick’ due to the pervasive alcohol content.

It went down a little too easily and I quickly ordered a second. In the name of research, of course.

Select Spritz in hand, we wandered out onto the hotel balcony to take in the sweeping views over the lagoon and of Venice.

Lunch was a culinary delight, starting with boiled octopus on creamy potatoes, on to pasta with scallops and crescione and finished off with a delicious chocolate souffle. 

Well-fed and well-lubricated, we hopped back onto our boat and headed for the glass-blowing island of Murano, to the Venini glass factory – born in the same year as Select and also the place where the Select bottle took inspiration from.

A short boat trip away, Murano island is the home of the famous Murano glass blowers, preserved as one of Venice’s greatest treasures.

Venini was founded in 1921 and has been a staple of Venetian glassmaking since, and they kindly welcomed us in for a tour of the factory where we could see the artists in action.

We were shown all the different stages of production, from dust to liquid, how the colours are added, and watched as men manipulated fire to create beautiful shapes.

After the full tour we set sail back into the lagoon, to refresh and unwind at the JW Marriott Venice Resort and SPA, where we were staying.

We sped past glittering Venice, slowly turning gold in the late afternoon light, and pulled up to a separate island, Isola Delle Rose, where guests ‘drive’ in to the hotel reception area by boat.

The hotel was enormous (perks of having a whole island to themselves!) with a very modern and polished interior, and elegantly furnished rooms with standalone bathtubs, modern walk-in showers, flat screen TVs and private balconies.

Upstairs there’s a rooftop swimming pool, bar and restaurant, while downstairs there’s a hammam, sauna, gym and stunning heated indoor vitality pool that extends outdoors through a moveable glass wall. Beyond some olive groves there’s Michelin-starred fine dining concept Dopolavoro, while near the main restaurant the hotel offers cooking classes (including trips to the Venice markets for those interested) at their Sapori Kitchens.

After a swim in my bath (yes, they are that big) and a cheeky Select Spritz in my room – when in Rome… I mean Venice – I walked through the olive groves to meet the others for dinner at Dopolavoro.

More Select Spritz cocktails followed, washed down with live music and Venetian canapés.

Dinner was another elaborate Venetian affair, with a fresh Tuna and Avocado Tartare, Risotto with Prawns, Courgette Flowers and Baked Citrus Ricotta and Mediterranean Seabass with Capers, Olives, Cherry Tomatoes and Vegetable Millefeuille, followed by Cheesecake with Raspberries and Mango Sauce.

Finally heading to bed it was strange to believe I had woken up in London that morning!

The following morning we lazed on the island, had a Venetian cooking class hosted in the hotel’s cookery school, and sipped on our final Select Spritz cocktail before being whisked back to the airport. It was the perfect end to a perfect whirlwind trip.

I’m sure I’m not alone in dreaming of Venice, but I did take a little bit back to London with me – a certain red bottle just in time for the festive period. Because what could be more festive than a red and green cocktail, that can be thrown together quicker than you can say Merry Christmas?

METHOD

Pour cold Prosecco into a wine glass over ice. Add Select, a splash of soda water and gently stir together. Garnish with a large green olive.

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