Refreshingly sweet yet slightly bitter, the Classic Aperol Spritz is a must try.
Before we had kids, we scrimped and saved for a European adventure. We happened upon some amazing hotels and guest houses while on our trip—and we had a few misses. But we wouldn’t change a thing. Especially not the tiny bistro on a cobbled sidewalk in Venice. There, we luxuriated in fresh salad, pasta, and bread. And the drinks—they kept coming, one after another, late into the evening. With a citrusy zest and a fizzy zing, those Aperol Spritzes set the stage for a long and lovely conversation.
Because I like to dive into the history of drinks, I did a little research and found that spritzes actually were created in the Venetia region of Italy in the 1800s. The story goes that traveling soldiers enjoyed the local wines—but maybe a bit too much. They weren’t used to the higher alcohol content so they began asking for a spray (or spritzen, in German) of water to dilute the wine. The spritz evolved into a mix of sparkling wine or prosecco along with some local bitters.
The Aperol Spritz is a classic twist, using the bitter Aperol, which is known for its vibrant orange color. Like a Bellini or Mimosa, the Aperol Spritz relies on a bubbly wine base, a prosecco in this case.
What is Aperol Exactly?
Now that we’ve covered the “spritz” part of the cocktail, let’s delve into the other part: the Aperol. Aperol is a slightly bitter liqueur that mixes gentian and cinchona flowers along with rhubarb, citrus, and other ingredients. It’s an aperitif, which means that it’s intended to be consumed before meals to awaken one’s appetite. It was invented by the Barbieri brothers at the turn of the 20th century when they inherited their father’s liquor company. Apparently, they experimented for seven years before getting the flavor they wanted. Though it has long been a popular drink in the Veneto region of Italy, it only really got a foothold in North American markets when Campari took over Aperol in the early 2000s. With the strength of such a large company behind it, Aperol got the push it needed; it’s now a popular cocktail among those who frequent patios on hot summer days.
- 2 oz Aperol
- 3 oz prosecco
- 1 oz soda water
- Optional: semi-circular slice of orange
- Begin by filling a wine glass with cubes of ice.
- Pour Aperol into the glass over the ice
- Add the prosecco.
- Add the soda water, and garnish with an orange slice.
Tips & Tricks for a Perfect Aperol Spritz
- Use larger ice cubes: they’ll melt more slowly and won’t dilute the drink as much.
- Pour the Aperol first to prevent it from floating to the top.
- You can increase or decrease the quantity depending on the audience, but maintain the classic ratio of 2 parts Aperol to 3 parts prosecco to 1 part soda water.
- Give your cocktail a gentle stir to mix the Aperol and prosecco without swirling out the bubbles.
There are 193 calories in this particular Aperol Spritz. To lower that number, you can use more sparkling water than prosecco.
A wine glass is the classic choice. While an orange slice works best as a garnish, you can up the citrus flavor by use an orange peel. Twist it over the drink to release the essence, then run the peel around the rim of the wine glass so you taste it with every sip.
Light appetizers are a great option, such as olives, prosciutto, or bruschetta. But you can serve the drink with a full meal or even dessert, and it will still taste delicious and refreshing.
Prosecco is the traditional pick, but you can use Champagne, cava, or any other of your favorite bubbly beverages.
With the fizz of prosecco, you shouldn’t prepare the drink far in advance. But you can chill the prosecco and soda water and slice your oranges so that your ingredients are prepped for when you’re ready to make the drink. The mixed drink won’t store very well, but you can store any leftover prosecco in the fridge (with a top on the bottle) for a day or two, and the Aperol is fine in a cool, dark place for a couple of months. If you have already mixed the drink, try it as a marinade.
Both are chock-full of herbaceous goodness but the Campari is stronger and more bitter than the Aperol, which bears a slight sweetness and is more mellow.
Similar Cocktails Worth Trying
Classic Negroni Recipe: A cocktail bursting with herbs and citrus, thanks to the Campari and orange, the Negroni is another you’ll see on patios everywhere once the warm weather arrives.
Paper Plane Cocktail: Take a flight with bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino, and a splash of lemon juice. The Aperol and citrus of the Aperol Spritz are on board!
Blood Orange Amaretto Cocktail: Orange flavor mixes with another Italian liqueur in the form of Amaretto, with vodka beefing up the cocktail.
Mocktail Spritz: Replace the Aperol and prosecco with Italian non-alcoholic sparkling wine and bitter orange soda.