Prosecco, Aperol, soda water, and a slice of orange served over ice.
It’s amazing how few people in North America are familiar with the Aperol Spritz, as it is arguably one of the most popular drinks in Italy. I had never even seen it before my trip to Tuscany. But this lovely, light, bright orange cocktail (alternately known as the Aperol Spritz, Spritz, Spritz Veneziano, or just the Veneziano) is an almost ubiquitous presence in osterias, cafes, bars, and patios all over Northern Italy.
Aperol is an Italian aperitif with a unique color and distinct flavour derived from a mixture of interesting ingredients including bitter orange, rhubarb, gentian root (a blue flower root commonly used for flavoring bitters), and cinchona (a medicinal plant from South America that is often used as a source for quinine). The taste is unlike anything else I have tried, with the exception of a mild similarity to Campari.
The first time I tried an Aperol Spritz was during the toast at our friend’s wedding in Artemino. Everyone (well, everyone not from Italy, that is) was buzzing about how delicious it was. With its slightly sweet, slightly bitter, and thoroughly refreshing taste, the Aperol Spritz really does seem to be right along the lines of the types of drinks that are currently en vogue in many bars and restaurants in North America (with bitters having made a recent resurgence in popularity).
After that, it seemed everywhere I looked there was someone drinking a Spritz. We’d pass a cafe, and there would be a person in the window sipping a Spritz out of a large wine glass. We’d walk into a town square, and the patio would be dotted with bright orange drinks. We’d go to a restaurant for dinner, and there would be several tables full of people drinking Spritzes while waiting for their meal. The Spritz was everywhere.
Apart from being incredibly delicious and refreshing, I think one of the reasons for the Spritz’s popularity is it’s relatively low alcohol content. Aperol contains only 11% alcohol, and although it is mixed with prosecco it is diluted by soda water and ice, giving it an overall alcohol content of about 8% per glass. It is one of the most drinkable cocktails I have ever had, and I don’t feel (too) guilty about having one (or two, or three) of these before dinner. 😉
The Spritz pictured in this post was taken on the patio of a restaurant called Alla Speranza located at the edge of Siena’s amazing central square. While the Spritz there was not necessarily any better or worse than any other Spritz I have had, it was enhanced by the beautiful scenery of this spectacular medieval town. And because Tuscany is the first place I ever tried a Spritz, every time I have one here in North America it brings me back to the feeling of sitting outside in Italy overlooking some incredible architecture and basking in the late afternoon sun.
Here’s how to make an Aperol Spritz. I suggest serving it in a wine glass and adjusting the proportions according to your own taste:
3 or 4 ice cubes
1.5 oz Aperol
2-3 oz Prosecco
A splash of sparkling water
1 slice or wedge of orange
1 green olive (optional)