IT TAKES A WHILE FOR TRENDS TO CATCH ON IN SOUTH AFRICA. GENERALLY, A FAD WILL BEGIN IN EUROPE AND SLOWLY TRICKLE ITS WAY SOUTHWARDS, CARRIED ON THE WINGS OF TOURISM AND VISITORS. THE APEROL SPRITZ IS ONE SUCH COCKTAIL FIONA MCDONALD REPORTS.
It’s one of those drinks or cocktails that has an impact. A waitron with a tray of neon orange balloon glasses tinkling with ice is guaranteed to have heads swiveling when carried through a restaurant or bar, regardless of how socially distant the patrons are.
Aperol spritz has been a thing in Italy for more than a century but its modern renaissance happened after the Campari Group acquired the Aperol brand in 2003 and threw some serious marketing muscle behind it. (Sales figures have quadrupled since the takeover and these are expected to rise even further as the world catches on, South Africans among them.)
Wikipedia reports that the spritz part stretches as far back as the 1800s when Austro-German visitors to the Veneto in Italy asked for their wines to be watered down a tad, not being used to the alcohol levels the locals made. This spray – spritzen in German – made their drinks lighter and more palatable. So the original spritz would have been a white or red wine with either fresh or sparkling water.
Aperol, which takes its name from the Italian for aperitivo – or a little pre-dinner drink – was created in 1919, in Padua by the Barbieri brothers. The Aperol Spritz only really caught on after World War II as an alternative to the more standard white wine spritzer.
In the CHEERS January/February 2020 issue Clifford Roberts reported that local bartenders had returned to SA after attending a Berlin conference. Based on the Berlin visit, the feedback was that the demand for lower alcohol cocktails would rise, along with more curiosity for vermouth cocktails; “and a return to that great tradition that Italians call apertivo hour, otherwise known as sundowners. Bring on summer!” Roberts wrote.
In CHEERS’ Italian issue (No. 29 – March/April 2017) Daisy Knowles delved into aperitivo. “Aperitifs, or aperitivo in Italian, are served prior to a meal, whilst digestifs (digestivo) appear on the table after the meal. The purpose of an aperitif is to whet and stimulate the appetite. It has its core in the Latin word aperire, meaning ‘to open’ with the idea being that this drink opens up the culinary senses of what is to come. As such, it is generally light in style and alcohol content, and usually dry (sugar is known to limit the appetite). An aperitif can be as unassuming as a glass of still or sparkling wine, but Italians often tend towards something a little more aromatic, such as Vermouth, Campari or Aperol.
“Usually served as an aperitif, Campari owns a dramatic red colour and is made from a secret infusion of herbs, fruits and plant extracts. It is distinctly bitter in flavour and, as such, it is often mixed with sparkling water, orange juice or white wine. It was born to Gaspar Campari in 1860
who concocted it in Turin. Aperol (made and distributed by Campari) is similar to Campari but less bitter and tends towards bright orange in colour, and with a low alcohol content. Its recipe remains closely guarded but is unchanging in its ingredients of sweet and bitter oranges, gentian, rhubarb and cinchona (a type of tree bark), roots and herbs.” (Cinchona is also used in tonic water – it’s the bittering agent also known as quinine.)
So, the precise recipe of what Aperol actually is remains a secret but the recipe for the Aperol Spritz is free to anyone who’d like to try it.
The general rule of thumb for any spritz is three parts bubbly or fizzy wine to two parts spirit or liqueur and then a splash of sparkling water or soda to top it off.
APEROL SPRITZ INGREDIENTS:
- 75 ml Prosecco (or a modest South African sparkling wine – not Méthode Cap Classique!
- 60 ml Aperol
- 15 ml soda water
- Large balloon wine glasses
- Orange slices
Pour the Aperol into the glass. Next, pour the Prosecco or sparkling wine into the glass. Add the soda water to taste. Finally add the ice cubes and orange slice garnish to fill the glass.
Tip to ramp up the flavour – Peel a 10cm strip of orange zest, twist and run it around the inside of the glass before pouring any of the ingredients into it. The essential oils in the skin will add extra zingy citrus flavour to the drink.
Don’t be tempted to put ice in the glass first – and then pour on the Prosecco or sparkling wine. The gas in the bubbly will be lost when it hits the ice and the spritz will be pretty flat as a result! So ice after the drink is mixed.
Final tip is to keep all the ingredients well chilled, even the Aperol. Firstly, your drink will stay colder longer and thus won’t become watered down. And as they mix and mingle and warm
slightly in the glass they will release more aromatics and flavours.