In 1997, Andrea Rispoli served this aperitif inspired by the Amalfi Coast hot summer days. From an act of serendipity, a lucky and casual find.
By Antonella Florio
Andrea Rispoli, born in 1968, from Amalfi, in 1997 joins the choir of the yellow gold standard-bearers of the Amalfi Coast, creating the first lemon spritz. A riot of sweet-bitter notes, a blend inspired by hot summer days.
The apprenticeship at the Saraceno and the meeting with Atrani
Before buying, together with his brother, the La Risacca bar in Atrani, Andrea learns the trade by doing a long apprenticeship. From 1989 to 1992, he lived the most significant experience for him. At the Hotel Saraceno, a well-known luxury hotel on the Amalfi Coast, he meets Giuseppe Cimmino, a bartender with a brilliant temperament who teaches him to use the “tools” of the trade. Andrea learns from Cimmino how to dose, mix, combine passion, technique, and talent. As he talks about the Master about him, his eyes fill with emotion and gratitude. The meeting with Atrani takes place roughly in the same years. “Although Atrani, the smallest town in Italy, was located just 500 meters from Amalfi, before 1990 I used to visit it very little. Gradually I began to fall in love with Piazza Umberto I, and to think of that corner of the world nestled between rock, sky, and sea as my second home “. In 1990 he decided to buy a tobacconist’s shop in Piazzetta Umberto I, and it was there that his Atranese adventure began, made up of music, friends, and, of course, drinks. Already in the tobacconist’s shop, Andrea sets up a small corner bar: friends arrive, smoke a cigarette, drink a cocktail artfully prepared by this bizarre tobacconist-barman and maybe entertain themselves for the whole evening to the sound of the guitar. In short, everything seems, except for a prosaic village tobacconist. In 1995, La Risacca bar – which was located right in front of the tobacconist – was put up for sale. “It was a bar for a few close friends. I liked him for that. I asked my brother if he was interested in selling the tobacconist’s and buying the bar; we took it together. I decided to leave the name La Risacca for two reasons. The Undertow of the sea is the place where the wave always returns. I wanted my bargoers to try something similar too. And then because the name sympathetically referred to the resaca of the following day, something that non-abstainers know very well ».
A meeting place
The small square of Atrani, already in the 90s, looks like a single body, a single-family: all the entrepreneurial realities are connected, and the Risacca is, right from the start, one of the most popular meeting places. The secret ingredients? Good live music, jam sessions attended by the best musicians in the area and beyond, fun and simplicity. «Tourists came to Atrani from all over the world. I was lucky enough to discuss the fashions and trends in vogue in their countries with them. I tried to import into my little bar what intrigued me the most, from music to food to drinks. I tried to propose the Risacca first as a wine bar and then as a bistro, concepts that, in the 90s, were only known abroad “. Meanwhile, Andrea’s passion for the art of mixing, shaking, and creating cocktails grows more and more. From the first opening, the bar has a wide selection of rums, whiskeys, and spirits. “Lemon was one of my favorite ingredients. I also used it instead of lime. I liked, for example, using it in a mojito. I found it an exciting way to reinvent tradition. And then the lime, at the time, was too expensive “.
Photo by Lukas, courtesy of Pexels.com
From the Africano drink to Lemon spritz
We are in 1997, Atrani is a rapidly growing reality. Summers are hot and long. During the heatwave, swimmers take refuge in the welcoming Piazzetta Umberto I to find some refreshment. They sit at the Risacca, asking for refreshing drinks, and Andrea pleases them by offering them a drink based on lemon granita and sparkling water. “I called it Africano. One day, a client of mine asked me to correct it with alcohol, and it was thus that, with the addition of prosecco, the first Lemon Spritz was born. “Over time, Andrea refines this new aperitif born by chance, works on the lemon base of the granita, and improves the alcoholic part. In addition to prosecco, in his Lemon Spritz, notes of vodka and limoncello are felt. “In those years, Aperol spritz was already a trendy drink, especially among Italians. But after tasting the lemon version, my customers kept asking for it. Tourists and residents came to the Risacca to drink only Lemon Spritz ».
The career as a musician
Andrea is a man of a thousand resources. In 2014, after four years from the tragic flood in Atrani, he decided to devote himself entirely to his career as a musician. This activity has fascinated him since the days of the tobacconist. «In my life, I have always played, first learning the drums and then the electric bass as a self-taught. I was also lucky enough to share this passion with many friends, first in the tobacconist’s and then at the Risacca with outdoor concerts and jam sessions “. Of all the groups he had and alternated over time, Andrea remembers one with particular affection: Il Gatto e la Volpe. «Carmine Cavaliere played the keyboard while I did the rhythm part playing the bass. We had fun. Today Il Gatto e la Volpe still exists, even if it is an activity that I carry on alone as a singer and percussionist. At the moment, however, I don’t have much work. We hope to be able to return to normal soon ». His secret dream, however, is always linked to the experience he had at La Risacca. “If I ever get the chance, I’d be happy to reopen a small bar and start making Lemon Spritz again.”