My travel to Europe last month was enlightening in many regards. In Vienna, I learned about the centuries of Hapsburg reign and even saw Charlemagne’s bedazzled crown in their treasury, one of many luxury accessories that the family acquired during their centuries of prosperity. In Paris I stayed for the first time in the St. Germain/Rue Mouffetard neighborhood that Hemingway brings to life in A Moveable Feast, and wandered in and out of the left bank’s charming used bookstores that sell old editions of French literary greats. I can’t read French but I did admire their bindings. Last, but not least, in Berlin I had my first Aperol spritz, and it is now my absolute favorite cocktail in the wide world.
Aperol is a European staple, but less well known here. In fact, I wish I had known about it when I began my drinking education back in college. Because in all honesty, we weren’t just college kids looking for quantity and no quality. We were in search of something with a nice taste that we could enjoy drinking; that was the intention behind those ill-conceived, treacly-yet-asophogial-burning Absolut Vanilla and Diet Coke cocktails. We just didn’t have the cultural wherewithal to go to Padua for it.
Here’s Wikipedia’s history and definition of Aperol:
Aperol is an Italian aperitif originally produced by the Barbieri company, based in Padua. Aperol is now produced by the Campari company. While Aperol was originally created in 1919, it did not become successful until after World War II. Its ingredients are, among others, bitter orange,gentian, rhubarb, and cinchona.
Although it tastes and smells much like Campari, Aperol has an alcohol content of 11%—less than half of Campari. Aperol and Campari have the same sugar content. However, Aperol is milder and less bitter. Campari is also much darker in color.”
So what does it taste like? I describe it as Adult Capri Sun or Orange Crush. It’s refreshing and bright, with only a whisper of bitterness. It’s real strength is that it’s alcohol content is low, so you can really enjoy the flavors.
How is it best served? The Spritz. Super easy. Start with a big wine glass full of ice. Add 2 parts Aperol. Then add 3 parts Prosecco (sparking wine, champagne or even white wine work too). Then 1 part club soda. Toss in an orange wedge or peel and you are ready for happy hour in Padua.
Orange is also the color du jour for lips this spring according to runways, red carpets and magazines. For a color-coordinated spring cocktail hour, my top orange lip pick is the matte-creme Lip Crayon in Clementine from Bite Beauty ($24). Bite is made of all-natural ingredients so it’s one of the few lip brands you can wear while you sip, without worrying about ingesting chemicals. Plus, it stays put and the colors are vibrant, texture velvety. In second place, Nars addicts will love the new color Timanfaya in the Satin Lip Pencil ($25), and a beauty-product-addict good friend of mine recently raved about Stila’s Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick ($22) in Tesoro.
But, back to booze. According to the Aperol website, the biggest markets for it are Italy, Austria and Germany (by the way, when you’re in Germany next, be aware that the Aperol sold there is slightly stronger; it has an alcohol content of 15% to avoid German container-deposit legislation rules). So, if you are heading to any of these exotic locales sometime soon, keep an eye out for interesting Aperol cocktail variations to tell me about! For those of us staying put, no need to worry. Aperol is widely available in the US at upscale retailers. Binny’s here in Chicago sells a 750 ML bottle for $19.99.
It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!