Italy has many famous and delicious beverages. There’s wine like Barolo, Chianti, and Super Tuscans. There’s ubiquitous Italian beer like Peroni. Nothing, however, has as strong a claim to being “Italy’s drink” as a low-alcohol cocktail called the Aperol Spritz. The drink is built around Aperol, a semi-sweet, slightly bitter, 11-percent-alcohol-by-volume aperitif from northern Italy.
Aperol Spritz is an easy 3-2-1 mix of three parts prosecco, two parts Aperol, and one splash of soda water. Pour all the ingredients into a wine glass filled with ice, garnish it with an orange slice, and there you have it: Italy’s most popular mixer. The history of the Aperol Spritz, however, is a little more complicated.
It all goes back to 1805 and the Napoleonic wars. In the aftermath of the wars, Austria-Hungary took ownership of the Veneto region of northern Italy, where Venice is located. For the next 50 years, Austrians took the local Italian wine and added a splash, or in German, a “spritz,” of water. Over time (and two World Wars) the water turned to sparkling water, and the still wine morphed into wine fortified with a liqueur. The liqueur of choice quickly became Aperol.
In 1919, Aperol was born. It gained popularity through the 1920s, and in the 1930s, it became a drink “for women and sportive people.” Advertisements around Italy marketed the drink as something to help the fitness conscious stay “lean and fit.” It wasn’t until the 1950s, though, that Aperol capitalized on the spritz. The 3-2-1 recipe of prosecco, Aperol, and soda water became an important part of the advertising campaign in America with posters and slogans.
But it wasn’t until the 2000s that the Aperol Spritz became the worldwide phenomenon that it is today. In 2003, Gruppo Campari bought the Aperol brand and used its global distribution to its advantage. To get people hooked on the aperitif, Gruppo Campari pushed the Aperol Spritz once again. Actress Amanda Rosa Da Silva settled into TV commercials with the catch phrase, “Happy Spritz, Happy Aperol.” It wasn’t long until Aperol became the best-selling liquor in Italy.
The wave of popularity was ridden to a crest. In 2011, Aperol released a pre-bottled Aperol Spritz sold in three-packs. All you had to do was add the ice and orange, but homemade always remains the ideal choice. When it comes to a light summer drink to share with friends in those hours after dinner, but before the bars, there are few things better than an Aperol Spritz.
How to make the perfect Aperol Spritz
Start with a wine glass or rocks glass. Fill it with to the top with ice. Pour prosecco a little more than halfway up the glass. Pour Aperol halfway from the prosecco to the rim of the glass. Top with soda water. Garnish with a slice of orange.
Follow that order (it keeps the Aperol from sinking to the bottom), and you’ll have yourself the perfect Aperol Spritz.