John B. Reyna
Aperol, Much More than a Spritz
Like many delicious and beautiful things, Aperol is Italian. It refreshingly citrusy and lightly bitter with an iconic bright orange color.
In 1919, Silvio and Luigi Barbieri invented the secret recipe for Aperol, which is still used today, in Padua, Italy. The two brothers set out to produce a less bitter and lower alcohol amaro option after inheriting a liquor company from their father, and it took 7 years to reach perfection. Yet, somehow, this delicious aperitif didn’t make it to the US until 2006, which was three years after the Campari group purchased it.
Coming in at 11% in the US (up to 15% in other parts of the world), this vibrantly colored spirit is flavored with sweet and bitter oranges, tangerines, herbs, spices, and vanilla. There are also notes of rhubarb and grapefruit. It should be a staple of any home bar since it can be used to create numerous cocktails. However, it is not a substitute for Campari. Though their sugar content is the same, Aperol is significantly less bitter.
Aperol is incredibly versatile. It can be used either to add a boost of bitterness and grapefruit to a drink or to act as the star of a drink. It is delicious served straight as an aperitif. However, it is best known as the key ingredient in the very well marketed Aperol Spritz with prosecco and seltzer water. The spritz was first created in the 1950s, but has had a particularly strong advertising campaign in the last few years. We, of course, have a few of our favorite Aperol cocktails to share with you:
2 oz Tequila
1 oz Aperol
2 oz Freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
Shake all ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a low-ball.
Top with Ice. Garnish with a grapefruit slice.
Fantastically clever, the 2-1-2 is named for both the most popular area code in Manhattan where it was created and the proportions of the three ingredients used. What an easy recipe to remember! It was first created in 2008 by Aisha Sharpe and Willy Shine of Contemporary Cocktails, who were consulting for bars around NYC. It later found its way into the PDT cocktail book, reaching a wider audience.
What an excellent summer sipper. The Aperol and grapefruit bring a perfect harmony of bitter and sweet to balance the tequila. You get the magical blend of agave and citrus, with the complexity of the Aperol to bring it all together.
And of course, the Paper Plane:
¾ oz bourbon
¾ oz fresh lemon juice
¾ oz Aperol
¾ oz Amaro Nonino
Combine ingredients with ice in cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously until chilled. Strain into chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon slice.
This was one of the first craft cocktails I fell in love with. Already being a bourbon drinker, this was an easy next step as I longed for more complex flavors in my beverage than a whiskey and coke. This has been a great drink to share with friends, many of whom asked for the recipe and have since sent me pictures of them making it themselves.
It is named after the MIA song, which was playing on repeat the summer this drink was invented. Sam Ross, who worked at the famous NYC bar Milk & Honey, run by the great Sasha Petraska, created this cocktail for a fellow bartender who was opening the Violet Hour bar in Chicago. As an equal parts drink structured around the Last Word, there are endless possibilities to play with.
With the heat hitting hard and fast, it’s time to stock up on some Aperol! And for more than just spritzes. Please. A few other favorite cocktails worth checking out are the Naked and Famous (another play on the Last Word) and the High Five (a play on a Hemingway Daiquiri, perfectly garnished with a high five). Go enjoy some Aperol, my lovelies!
Sending summery love,