Bitter drinks are increasingly popular these days, but the real hard-hitters—the medicinal Fernet Branca, the cult favorite Malört—aren’t to everyone’s taste. Aperol, on the other hand, can get along with anyone.
With a vibrant crimson color and ingredients that include orange and rhubarb, Aperol is a hint bitter, but only delicately so; a touch fruity, but not unbearably sweet; alcoholic, but low proof enough (around 11 percent) that it won’t overwhelm a drink.
It’s a great addition to cocktails all year-round, but with its affinity for light, crisp flavors, Aperol works especially well in the spring. Want to get into the Aperol spirit? Here are three cocktails to make with it—no strange liqueurs or overwrought technique required.
Easy: Aperol Spritz
Never had an Aperol spritz? Stop reading this. Walk down to the liquor store. Get Aperol and Prosecco. And holler when you’re back.
There’s no better cocktail for a warm spring evening, a summer brunch or a lazy afternoon. With little more than the two starring ingredients, it takes about 30 seconds to make, requires no skill other than uncorking the Prosecco, and is an awful lot more complex and exciting than a mimosa. The classic recipe includes a float of soda water. We think it’s just fine with Aperol and Prosecco, as long as the bubbly isn’t too sweet. Play around and decide for yourself.
Instructions: Fill a wine glass with ice. Pour in 1½ ounces of Aperol and 4 ounces of Prosecco. An orange wheel makes an elegant garnish.
Intermediate: Amber Road
Though gin and vodka might star as summertime spirits, bourbon can play at that game, too. With Aperol and a good hit of lemon juice, this sour is eminently drinkable: refreshing enough for a stiff brunch drink or sophisticated enough for a cocktail party. Shake up whenever you see fit.
Instructions: Add 1½ ounces of bourbon (we like Buffalo Trace), 1 ounce of Aperol, ½ ounce of fresh lemon juice and ¼ ounce of maple syrup to a cocktail shaker with ice. Add a dash of Angostura bitters. Shake that all up hard, then strain it into a tall glass with ice. Add 2 ounces of soda, and garnish with a lemon wheel and mint sprig. Pro tip: Gently slap that mint on your hand a few times to release its aromatic oils before using it to garnish.
Advanced: Garden Party
Gin and Aperol make for good friends, their layered herbal elements balance each other out; lemon is a natural partner. A little basil keeps this drink fresh for warmer weather—and Prosecco takes it into irresistible territory. This drinks as easily as a spritz, but an awfully gussied-up one.
Note: We’re calling this “advanced” because we’re teaching you a technique: double-straining. Whenever you use a cocktail shaker, you strain the contents into a glass. But when you’ve got a lot of bits or seeds in the cocktail—like with berries, or ginger, or here, basil—it’s best to strain through a fine-mesh strainer, too, to get said bits out.
(If you can’t be bothered, it’s not the end of the world to have little basil shreds floating around in the cocktail. Just be aware they’ll get stuck in your teeth.)
Instructions: Add 1½ ounces of gin (we like Tanqueray Ten here), 1½ ounces of Aperol, ¾ of an ounce of fresh lemon juice and ¼ ounce of simple syrup (that’s equal parts sugar dissolved in water) to a cocktail shaker with ice. Add five fresh basil leaves. Shake that all up; the basil will break up and flavor the rest of the cocktail. Double-strain it into a glass (see note above) and top with about ½ ounce of Prosecco. Garnish with a basil sprig.