Italian culture has long been a steward for all things fantastic, particularly when it comes to food and drink. Their garlicky, carb-rich cuisine is the stuff dreams are made of. Their robust Barolos and Brunellos are some of the most sought after wines in the world. But the boot-shaped peninsula separating the Mediterranean from the Adriatic is also home to superb spirits. Campari, for example, has long been enjoyed as the fruit-toned foundation to numerous Old World cocktails. Yet for all of the love and recognition that this traditional aperitif has received in the past hundred years, many other Italian flavors have largely slipped under the radar stateside.
Aperol Aperitivo, a cousin of the more popular Campari, has been pleasing connoisseurs in post-war Europe for generations now, yet until recently it failed to gain much traction with American palates. In 2010, at the World Spirits Competition in San Francisco, Aperol was awarded the highest marks possible, paving the way for mainstream acceptance at high-end bars and speakeasies throughout the nation.
With delicate infusions of gentian, chinchona and rhubarb—helping to give the drink its distinct reddish-amber glow—Aperol is ideal for sipping before or after a glorious meal of pappardelle and Braesola. The hallmark flavors are slightly bitter, slightly sweet with curiously herbaceous underpinnings. With an ABV hovering around 11%, the aperitivo is well-suited to mixing tasty cocktails that won’t leave you excessively wobbly.
A Spritz combines Aperol with equal parts Prosecco, producing a wondrously pleasing effervescence that soothes the mind and belly far better than any prescription remedy could ever dream of. For something more distinctly continental (if in name only) consider the Aperol Americano. Invented in Italy, well before any American ever knew of its existence, this simple mixture melds 2 parts Aperol to 1 part Italian sweet vermouth with a splash of sparkling mineral water on top. Garnish this subtly bitter beverage with a twist of orange zest as you drink in your next sunset. Close your eyes momentarily and imagine yourself frolicking along the sloping hillsides of Sicily. Cent’anni!