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The Italian Sundown Sipper: Aperol Spritz

The Aperol spritz is a classic Italian aperitivo that's easy to make and easy to drink, too.


You're no doubt familiar with the wine spritzer, a low-cal, low-alcohol cocktail that had its heyday in the United States in the 1980s and '90s. The first spritz, however, was thought to be invented more than a century earlier in northern Italy. The term comes from Austrian troops who would add a spritz (German for "splash") of club soda to mellow the regional wines.

Today the spritz, specifically the Aperol spritz, a version made with the red-orange- hued bitters from Padua, is Italy's most pervasive aperitivo – and one that I fell in love with during my month in Positano. Made with sweet and bitter oranges, rhubarb, and gentian root, Aperol is citrusy, just slightly bitter, and, at 11% ABV, comparable to wine in terms of booziness. When paired with its classic companions prosecco and soda water, it creates a cocktail that is, fittingly for predinner drinking, the color of the sunset.

Typically the cocktail is served in a wineglass or rocks glass, with large ice cubes and an orange wheel as a garnish, and Aperol calls for proportions of three parts prosecco to two parts Aperol to one part club soda. But the beauty of this drink is that there aren't really any hard-and-fast rules: you can tone down (or up!) the bitters, garnish with a lemon twist or an olive, perhaps, maybe even swap out prosecco for Lambrusco if you're feeling adventurous. Here is a fairly classic preparation, along with a riff on the original to get you started.

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