Now that the heat of summer has fully set in, you might be getting tired of guzzling White Claws at all those backyard parties. Yes, it is the drink of choice these days, but (spoiler alert) it is billed as a “hard seltzer,” when it’s actually just a malt beverage.
Sorry to wreck your summer.
However, for those who like to keep their drinks light in the sweltering heat, there are numerous solutions. Pimm’s is a wonderful summery liqueur that is just 25 percent alcohol, and mixes well with fresh fruit and ginger ale. But to take the lightness even further, my new favorite is Aperol. At only 11 percent, the Italian liquer — similar to Campari but less bitter and more delicate — makes a light and breezy spritz cocktail. Drop in a fresh orange slice and your afternoon just got way better. There is even a bottled Aperol spritz for convenience.
Originated in the early 20th century, Aperol was hugely popular with young, active Italians and has never really waned in popularity in its country of origin. In fact, if a drink can be a cultural icon, that’s what Aperol is in Italy. Acquired by Campari around 2000, the brand was reintroduced to American palates and, even though the White Claw set might not know it yet, it is highly likely that they’ll soon grow up and stock this behind their home bars.
The reddish-orange hue of Aperol is what makes a spritz in a wine glass much more refined and sexier than a can of “The Claw.” The added advantage of more flavor doesn’t hurt, either.
The spritz is obviously the classic Aperol drink, but there are many other ways to utilize this curiously bitter liqueur. One of my crafty bartenders at Capitol Bar recently did just that, pairing Aperol with bourbon and a kiss of summer honey sweetness.
However you enjoy Aperol, be sure to give it a try while the summer heat bares down on your backyard barbecue.
Spritzed and Confused
1 1/2 ounces bourbon (such as Wild Turkey Longbranch)
1 ounce Aperol
1/2 ounce honey syrup* (recipe follows)
Orange wheel garnish
Fill up a wine glass with ice. Add bourbon, Aperol and honey syrup. Stir and top with seltzer. Garnish with a fresh cut orange wheel.
Bring equal parts honey and water to just before boiling. Let cool to room temperature. Syrup keeps in refrigerator for up to a month.
Kevin Hopper manages the cocktail program at Capitol Bar in NW Boise, where Aperol is always well-stocked.