If you haven’t already tried an Aperol Spritz, you’ve probably heard of one.
This popular Italian apéritif (pre-dinner drink) is a favorite summertime sipper for many. It’s low in alcohol, easy to drink, and has a zesty deep orange color that calls to mind a sunset on a hot summer night.
It’s also incredibly simple to make an Aperol Spritz at home – just Aperol, prosecco (or sparkling wine), and soda water – which means a quick stop at the store and you can enjoy a glass tonight!
WHAT IS APEROL?
Aperol is an Italian orange liqueur. The recipe is secret, as is the case with many specialty liqueurs, but the brand’s website does say it’s “an infusion of ingredients including oranges, herbs, and roots.” (Don’t give it all away now!)
When I taste Aperol on its own, to me it tastes like the syrup version of orange soda, quite sweet but with a bit more bitterness. At 11% ABV (alcohol by volume), Aperol is relatively low in alcohol compared to other liqueurs, which are typically 24% ABV or higher.
That’s why Aperol is so popular in spritz form—you can have a big glass before dinner and hardly feel a thing!
APEROL VS CAMPARI
Both Aperol and Campari – that other popular Italian liqueur and one of the main ingredients in a Negroni (my favorite drink) – are amari, herbal liqueurs made in Italy.
While they share a similar color and flavor profile (both have pronounced orange flavors with both sweet and bitter elements), Aperol is fruitier, sweeter, and more syrupy than Campari. It also has half the alcohol content (11% ABV versus 24% ABV for Campari).
One way to think about the difference is to say Aperol is like a session beer and Campari is like an IPA. One is uncomplicated and unlikely to offend; the other is complex with a distinct point of view.
SUBSTITUTES FOR APEROL
If you don’t have Aperol, or you can’t find Aperol, or you don’t like Aperol, consider this my invitation to you to embrace the spirit of the Aperol Spritz but with an Aperol-adjacent liqueur. In other words, another Italian amaro!
Follow the classic spritz ratio – three parts Prosecco or other sparkling wine, two parts liqueur, and one part soda water – then substitute one of the other amari listed below.
Note: You may want to add an ounce or more simple syrup to the above spritz ratio when you use an amaro other than Aperol, just to balance the bitterness.
Technically, if you sub in one of these you will be making an Amaro Spritz. Each of these amari has its own unique flavor profiles—experiment and see which one you like best!
WHAT KIND OF PROSECCO IS BEST FOR AN APEROL SPRITZ?
Here are my rules for the Prosecco in an Aperol Spritz:
- Make it dry. You don’t want a sweet sparkling wine because the drink will be unbalanced. (Aperol is plenty sweet on its own.)
- Don’t go super cheap. It’s commonly suggested to go for a cheap Prosecco if you’re mixing it with a more flavor-forward liqueur, but in this case, I don’t think that’s good advice. Prosecco makes up most of the drink, so it should be good. Look for bottles in the $15-$20 range. When in doubt, ask a staff member at your wine store for a recommendation.
- Add it at the right time! If you pour Prosecco or sparkling wine into a wine glass after you add the ice, it will lose half its bubbles and you’ll have a half-flat drink right at the start. Instead, pour in the Prosecco first and then add the ice, gingerly, with tongs.
OTHER SPARKLING SUMMER COCKTAILS: