Last summer, the New York Times wrote an article stating that the Aperol Spritz was “officially the drink of the summer.” The article goes on to say that the neon orange-hued cocktail is so popular at Caffe Dante in New York City, it’s now on tap and poured from a 10-gallon keg—noting the bar going through six to nine cases of Aperol per week.
It’s bitter. It’s bubbly. It’s low ABV. It’s refreshing. And yes, it’s photogenic thanks to Aperol’s neon orange hue. Though, what’s not to like? Few and far in between) don’t love its bitterness, but all that aside, it’s hard to deny its summer appeal.
Back to the NYT. Jenna Kaplan, a spirit’s publicist and cocktail enthusiast, was the first to bring the newspaper’s latest headline to my attention: “The Aperol Spritz Is Not a Good Drink,” followed by, “The popular, Instagram-friendly aperitif drinks like a Capri Sun after soccer practice on a hot day. Not in a good way.” While it might not be the best cocktail you’ve ever had in your entire life, it serves a purpose, and that purpose is to remain as summer’s easiest drinking cocktail.
According to Grub Street’s rebuttal, the entire internet is upset about this news, myself included, and it’s time to take a stance for the beloved, bright orange summertime libation. “My guess is if you don’t like an Aperol Spritz, it’s because you’re drinking it wrong—and cutting corners with sub-par bubbles is usually the reason your spritz is tasting too sweet or unbalanced,” notes Kaplan. It’s legit my priority in Italy, accompanied with a sunset or salty, cured meat. Kaplan prefers her backdrop to be a breezy cafe in Rome paired with a buttery bowl of Cacio e Pepe, but when stateside, frequents Nitecap in New York City.
Natasha David, who runs the bar program [at Nitecap], has a rotating menu of always delicious and inventive spritzes, in addition to serving a killer Aperol Spritz,” Kaplan says. We’re not trying to call it the best drink you’ll ever have, but let’s be real here, it is summer in a glass and there’s no other way to describe it.
Aperol has been a staple in Italian culture since the early 1900s, and the Aperol Spritz itself, consisting of Prosecco, Aperol and soda water, has been a mainstay since the ‘50s, gaining popularity in the U.S. by way of social media and clever marketing campaigns. Whether you’d like to admit it or not, the drink is very photogenic.
Saying the Italian aperitif is not good is like saying rosé or a gin and tonic is not good, and we know the latter two are here to stay. At Mulino Italian Kitchen & Bar, the Aperol Spritz is a popular cocktail. Owner Samad Hachby, just back from Italy, notes that everywhere he looked, people were drinking the orange-colored drink. “It’s a great, refreshing drink—it pairs well with any food selection and is a great palate cleanser.”
Jim McCourt, bar manager at Prohibition in Charleston, simply states they’re not going anywhere anytime soon “because they’re f*cking awesome.” The classic drink is “light, refreshing and can be consumed at breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, and just before bed,” he adds. Charlotte’s cocktail extraordinaire, Bob Peters, notes it’s one of his favorite spring/summertime cocktails. “I love starting my evening with an Aperol Spritz because they are not super high in alcohol content,” he says, noting that it’s a mellow way to start the night.
Truth be told, there are no rules for the Aperol Spritz. Drink it anytime of year, anytime of day, and even during a meal, it’s all good to me. Just like a proper gin and tonic in the height of winter. Or a glass of Spanish Rosado in the fall.
“The Aperol Spritz is far from dead, and if anything, its growth in popularity as the unofficial drink of summer has only led to legions of bars and bartenders creating their own unique variations of it,” says Kaplan, who’s all about the Cosmic Club at Nitecap right now. At Northern Spy, Durham’s latest bar, eatery and bottle shop, prosecco is replaced with Stem Ciders L’Acier for a subtle tweak.
In an effort to show just how popular the Aperol Spritz is, CurEat is building the largest list of bars and restaurants serving the drink. So please tell us where you spritz by adding in your favorite bar, restaurant, hotel or lounge serving the vibrant drink HERE.
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