Ah, the Aperol Spritz - the delightful combination of Aperol, prosecco, soda water and ice that’s become our thirst-quenching summer booze staple.
Taking centre stage on those long summer days, the Aperol Spritz is the cold, light, fresh and citrusy cocktail that embodies sunshine, golden sands and the scenic views of the Italian coastline.
Karsten Moran for The New York Times
But if you can’t quite jet off to Italy right now, never fear! While aperitifs like Aperol used to gather dust on the drinks shelf, the UK embraced aperitivo hour in recent years. Nowadays the Aperol Spritz can be found on every cocktail menu from London to Liverpool - the perfect summertime drink for stressed out city-dwellers who can close their eyes and dream about sipping their spritz somewhere far away.
To get more acquainted with our favourite orange cocktail, we went in search of its story. It’s always fun to impress your friends with your cocktail knowledge, so read on for the history of the spritz, the origins of Aperol, and the story of how the key elements of this classic cocktail came to be combined. Plus, we’ve thrown in our 8 tried and tested steps to making the perfect Aperol Spritz, so that you can enjoy this tasty tipple all year round.
Spritzers are traditionally a white wine based aperitif cocktail hailing from Northern Italy. And if you're curious to know where the term “spritz” came from, it’s from the German verb Spritzen which means to spray or to splash. It can be traced back to the 19th century when Austrian soldiers attempted to drink the wines of Northern Italy and found them too strong for their refined tastes. To dilute the wine, they asked their local hosts to “spritz” their glasses with water.
As for Aperol? Fast forward 100 years to 1912 when pre-dinner drinks were growing in popularity across Europe. The Barbieri brothers Luigi and Silvio wanted to create an aperitif unique to their hometown of Padua, and spent seven years experimenting to find the perfect flavours. Their low alcohol, citrusy and slightly bitter orange-red liquor owes its flavors to its many ingredients - orange zest, vanilla, rhubarb, chinchona, genziana, and a blend of herbs and roots that remains a trade secret to this day. The original recipe is unchanged, and when the Campari group bought Aperol in 2003, they promised to remain faithful to it.
The brothers unveiled their creation at the Padua International Fair in 1919 and Aperol was an instant hit. In the 1920s it began to spread all over Italy. Due to its low alcohol content, Aperol was originally aimed at sporty men as the “choice alcohol for the active individual”. By the 1930s, advertising extended to the “waistline-conscious” woman as an elegant drink.
The Perfect Pairing
At the same time that Aperol was rising in popularity across Italy, so was the growing trend of adding sparkling water to wine and bitters. While the term spritz can be used with other liquors like Campari, it was Aperols’s advertising aimed at the younger population that made the liquor inseparable from the cocktail we associate it with today.
Nowadays, the Aperol Spritz is one of the most popular drinks in Italy, with 300,000 Venetians knocking back an Aperol Spritz every day (that’s 200 a minute!).
8 Simple Steps for Making The Perfect Aperol Spritz
- The Glass: Serve in a standard wine glass or rocks glass.
- The Ice: Always use large cubes, never crushed. This is essential for the drink’s slow dilution.
- The Prosecco: Use a chilled, dry Prosecco to cleanse the palate while snacking with your Spritz.
- The Soda: Use a high quality soda for your splash like Fever Tree or Fentimans.
- The Pour: Follow the 3-2-1 rule - three parts prosecco, two parts Aperol, and one part soda.
- The Garnish: Garnish with a slice of orange.
- The Straw: The Aperol Spritz is traditionally served with a black straw (and if you don’t have one, use a rocks glass for easier access to your spritz).
- The Timing: Serve between 5pm and 7pm. This is the traditional happy hour in Italy - perfect for spritzes and snacking as the sun goes down.
Cover image © Karsten Moran