Do you ever wonder what to have as a cocktail before dinner or what to have to drink while waiting for a table at your favorite
restaurant? You will likely be having wine with dinner, so you don’t want to start the evening with beer, a high-alcohol cocktail like a martini, or one of those crazy sweet en vogue cocktails. Or perhaps you need something to refresh your palate and prepare it for the great meal to come? So how do you solve this quandry? Why not drink an Aperol Spritz? Bristol Bar & Grille Master Sommelier Scott Harper explains why it’s a great option.
Reasons you should drink an Aperol Spritz
I was introduced to one of my favorite aperitivos in Italy about four years ago. We tasted through two dozen Brunello di Montalcinos in Montalcino and were taking a break for lunch. I needed something fresh and vibrant to restore my palate so that I could enjoy a wonderful Tuscan lunch. I had been expectorating, so consuming a little wine with lunch and a drink before lunch would still allow me to enjoy the remainder of the day’s tastings and activities. Our host suggested a spritz, more commonly called an Aperol Spritz. Always one open to a suggestion, I said “yes.” I observed the bartender take a large wine glass, fill it with ice and drop a freshly cut blood orange in it. He poured the Venetian sparkling wine prosecco over the ice. So far this seemed pretty basic and maybe a tad boring. He then added the Italian spirit Aperol and topped it with a splash of sparkling mineral water.
I took a quick sip to refresh my palate and quench my thirst. Wow! The juxtaposition of the orange flavor and slightly bitter flavor along with the vivacious bubbles of the sparkling wine was surprising. Layers of tired coatings of red wine were removed from my palate after I quickly dispatched another sip. Restoring and refreshing my palate completely by the end of the glass allowed me to better enjoy my lunch and the wines paired with it.
I later investigated exactly what Aperol was. As I saw it being poured, I equated it to one of my other favorite Italian aperitivos, Campari. It has the same bright orange color, but despite that it looks like Campari, Aperol has an alcohol content of 11 percent, which is less than half of Campari. It is also intentionally less bitter.
Aperol is essentially a secret recipe, but they do tell us it is an infusion of orange and mandarin. It also includes a collection of herbs, roots and spices including rhubarb. The two Barbieri brothers in Padua, Italy, originally made Aperol in 1919. Although Campari now owns it, it remains unchanged. In Italy it is the number one selling spirit and it is reported in Veneto, that people are consuming 300,000 Aperol Spritzes every day.
I like to drink an Aperol Spritz before dinner, especially in the summer. It is the perfect beverage while grilling on a hot day. The first wine of the evening seems to ow a little bit smother after an Aperol Spritz. I have had variations of the Aperol Spritz, one of which included using French champagne instead of the Italian prosecco, but I prefer the prosecco. Prosecco is a very good quality light, dry Italian sparkling wine that lends itself better to the cocktail then the richer, fuller French champagne. Try this recipe to make the traditional Aperol Spritz.
Aperol Spritz recipe
Fill your favorite 12-ounce glass with ice
Add a slice of orange or blood orange
Add three parts of prosecco
Two parts of Aperol
The splash of soda avoids the Aperol settling at the bottom.