3 minute read


Stroll down any cobbled street in Italy and there’s bound to be at least one or two sidewalk cafes, brimming with tourists and locals alike. Observe the patrons for more than a few seconds and you’ll notice many of them are sipping a refreshing drink that's festive and bright orange in color. It looks oh-so appealing, especially on a summer's day. What is this lovely summer-in-a-glass cocktail? Very likely an Aperol Spritz, a longtime favorite quaff from Matera to Milan and all points in between.

Of course you’ve likely heard of it and maybe even enjoyed one or two. After all, the Aperol Spritz cocktail is having quite a heyday in the US right now too. In the first quarter of 2022 the Italian aperitif jumped in sales in the US by nearly 51.2%. And why not? It’s delicious-not too sweet, not too bitter and at 11% ABVcontains far less alcohol than many other options, which makes Aperol the ideal summertime-anytime afternoon sip.

At its heart the main ingredient in the Aperol Spritz, the Aperol, is a lovely liqueur and Italian aperitif, meaning it is served to sip before a meal. And the slightly sweet, slightly bitter, totally luscious liqueur lends itself quite nicely to sundry other cocktails. For example, you can enjoy Stanley Tucci’s favorite, the Negroni, but pack a lighter punch when you replace the heavier ABV Campari with its cousin Aperol.

We’ll take a look at some ways to enjoy Aperol, but first let’s look at the history of this delightful and iconic aperitif.

Discovering a New Aperitif

In 1919, in the northern Italian city of Padua the Barbieri brothers, Luigi and Silvio, came upon the perfect blend of ingredients for their special drink. The brothers toiled over the exact ingredients to create their liqueur for more than seven years before coming up with a recipe that is still used-and closely guarded-today. Enjoyed by locals for more than two decades the spirit didn’t grow to please the palates of a wider audience until after WWII.

The name, Aperol, is a play on the French nickname for aperitif, “apero”. Like many other spirits Aperol is made from a blend of herbs, fruit and plants. The prominent flavor is orange but with a slightly bitter taste to balance the citrusy sweetness. Rhubarb also goes into the magnificent mix along with the bittersweet gentian flower and the light and lively cinchona root. Cinchona is also known as quina and, in addition to its many medicinal purposes, provides tonic water with its unique flavor. And the flavor of cinchona/quina perfectly complements the sweet and bitter nature of citrus.

For those familiar with Campari, Aperol’s stronger cousin, you’ll notice the similarities right away. The profiles are very similar. Both celebrate the flavors of orange and bitter orange however sip Aperol a little longer and you’ll begin to taste a pleasant herbal soupçon peaking through. Because the flavor of Aperol isn’t quite as strong as Campari the herbal notes play out.

Birth of A Legend

So why the sudden popularity and the rise of the Aperol Spritz? Well you might be surprised to find out the spritz cocktail, in all its iterations, has been around for more than a century. It all started in the late 1800s in the Veneto region of Italy. People on holiday from the Austro-Hungarian empire would water down the wine in Italy (*gasp*) in an effort to make the bold flavors more “palatable” for them.

Soon Italians began adding Prosecco to the wine and then a dash of their favorite fortified wine or liqueur, creating a delicious and festive spritz that was pleasing, especially in the warmer months, to locals and visitors alike. Upon its introduction into Italian society Aperol became the preferred liqueur and the beautiful Aperol Spritz proved just as delightful to the eye as the palate.

To this day the Aperol Spritz remains a very popular cocktail consumed by Italian locals as well as visitors from the rest of Europe and the Americas. According to the Campari Company, who took over creating Aperol in 2003 and contributed to its massive popularity around the globe, there are more than 300,000 Aperol Spritz cocktails consumed in the Veneto region alone-in a single day!

The Many Faces of Aperol

Don’t limit your enjoyment of Aperol and the Aperol Spritz only to warm weather. Enjoy a spritz, a Paper Plane (bourbon, Aperol, amaro and lemon juice, shaken and served) or simply Aperol over ice anytime. The delicious flavor of this spectacularly Italian liqueur knows no season! The orange flavor and deep hue brighten up a festive brunch time mimosa. Looking for a fruity addition to your favorite sangria recipe? Add some Aperol in place of the brandy usually called for.

The Iconic Aperol Spritz

Popular as it is, our gift to you today is the official recipe (sometimes called the 3-2-1) for the Aperol Spritz, as provided by Campari:

  • 3 Parts Dry Prosecco
  • 2 Parts Aperol
  • 1 Part Sparkling Water or Soda

Build the cocktail in a wine glass, taking care to prevent overflow while topping off with soda or sparkling water. Add ice and garnish with an orange slice. Sip and enjoy!