For more than 100 years, Aperol has been a summer staple in drinks. From its bright, vibrant color to its herbal and citrus scent, mixing up some Aperol cocktails will send you on a mini on vacation in no time. Although it’s a spirit easily enjoyed year round, there is something summery about Aperol. When I visited Italy and Spain during a couple of summers, I definitely sipped on some ‘spritzes’. Over the years, I also discovered some newer cocktail recipes since that I think you will enjoy. All of these cocktails are easy to make and will have you cooled down in no time. Also, I realize that many of these cocktails look similar, but I assure you that I have made and tested out each one. Let’s dive in!
What is Aperol?
Aperol is an Italian amaro and an apéritif. The latter is a drink typically served before a meal to whet the appetite. Aperol takes its name from the French slang of the word apéritif, which is ‘apero’. It was invented in 1919 by brothers Luigi and Silvio Barbieri in Padua, Italy, which is in the northern part of the country. They inherited their father’s liquor company and worked on developing Aperol for seven years. It is a blend of bitter and sweet oranges, rhubarb, and herbs, which give you a good idea of the overall flavor profile. The recipe remains the same today but is top secret. It’s hard to believe, but the spirit has only been available in the United States since 2006.
Substitute for Aperol?
If you’re ever out of Aperol, Campari is an excellent substitution. While Campari is higher ABV and slightly more bitter, the two have a very similar scent and flavor. Aperol and Campari also share the same sugar content which is particularly helpful when used as the sweetener in your drink. They were once competitors on the market but are now produced by the same company, since the early 2000s. There was a time when I didn’t like Campari at all, and Aperol was an excellent stand in. Any cocktail I’ve made–except for maybe a classic Negroni–has endured the swap. Just keep in mind that a cocktail with Campari will be slightly stronger in flavor and alcohol content.
Classic Aperol Cocktails
1. Aperol Spritz (or Spritz Veneziano)
While Aperol has only been around for a century, spritzes have another hundred years of history on the apéritif. Visitors to Italy in the 1800s were said to have found the wine too strong and would add a splash of water to them before drinking. A “splash” in German is “spritz” and the name stuck. Over the years a splash of still water has turned into carbonated water and/or sparkling wine. However you cut it, an Aperol Spritz is about the best thing to serve on a hot summer’s day.
- 1.5 oz Aperol
- 2 oz prosecco
- 1 splash soda water
- 1 slice orange
- Fill a wine glass with ice.
- Add Aperol to the glass, followed by the prosecco.
- Top with a splash of soda water and an orange slice.
If you are a brunch person, chances are you’ve seen a Garibaldi on the menu. In addition to being fun to say, this drink is best known for its “fluffy” orange juice component. The “fluffiness” comes from aerating the orange juice in an attempt to cut the bitterness of the Campari, the other ingredient in the drink. Recipes for the original cocktail also call for a range of ratios, depending on how bitter you want your orange juice to taste. I say, cut out the fuss and use Aperol instead. You can stick to the original 1:1 ratio and the drink is perfect with or without ice.
- 2.5 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
- 2.5 oz Aperol
- Add both ingredients to a champagne flute and add a couple of ice cubes.
- Stir gently and serve.
3. Aperol Negroni
Although a classic Negroni calls for Campari, I love making mine with Aperol. With this cocktail being booze-forward and stirred, it can be quite strong. The use of Aperol, to me, makes for the perfect variation. Slightly less bitter but maintaining the same bright hue, it will appeal to most tastes.
- 1 oz Aperol
- 1 oz gin
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
- Add ingredients to a mixing glass with ice.
- Stir 20 seconds or until contents are chilled. Strain into a rocks or coupe glass.
- You can serve over ice or neat (without ice) if you want to minimize the dilution. Garnish with an orange peel or dried citrus.
Modern Aperol Cocktails
I first discovered Amaro Montenegro by seeing every bartender I followed on Instagram using it. It sounded delicious, with a vanilla, orange, and eucalyptus notes, so I bought a bottle. The Italian amaro is good alone or in a cocktail. This one plays homage to the Adriatic Sea. As I am getting ready to travel to the Balkans in the Fall, I was researching good cocktails either from there or inspired by the location. This recipe seemed like a great one to end a great day at the beach.
- 0.5 oz Aperol
- 1 oz Montenegro amaro
- 1 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
- Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake 20-30 seconds.
- Fine strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with an orange peel twist or dried orange wheel.
5. Aperol Tequila Swizzle
This cocktail is a cross between an Aperol Spritz and a Paloma. It also gave me an excuse to use one of my favorite cocktail mixers. While the recipe may read as bold, it is actually quite light. If you want it even lighter, just add more Topo Chico, or soda water, and you will enjoy more of a highball-style drink. The only sweetness comes from the Aperol though, so if you like something sweeter you might want to add a half ounce of simple syrup.
Aperol Tequila Swizzle
- 1.5 oz tequila blanco
- 1 oz Aperol
- 3 dashes grapefruit bitters
- 3 oz twist of grapefruit Topo Chico
- 1 pinch coarse salt
- Add all ingredients to a glass with ice.
- Stir to blend for 15-20 seconds. Garnish with a dried blood orange wheel.
6. Paper Plane
As mentioned in a post I wrote about amaro cocktails, the Paper Plane is an excellent cocktail. Featuring not one but two amari, this cocktail was invented more recently but will be around for many years to come. It’s named after the song by M.I.A. and was invented by Sam Ross, co-owner of Attaboy in New York City. It’s a light and refreshing drink that whimsically calls upon your paper airplane-making skills.
- 0.75 oz bourbon
- 0.75 oz Aperol
- 0.75 oz Amaro Nonino
- 0.75 oz lemon juice
- Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice.
- Shake until frost forms on the outside of the shaker tins.
- Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a tiny paper airplane.
7. Aperol Grapefruit Spritz
I created this cocktail when I was experimenting with wine cocktails. I was finding way too many sangria recipes and wanted to mix things up a bit. (Sorry, pun intended.) This Aperol cocktail is simple to make and is very easy to drink. I think those are the best characteristics for a perfect summer drink.
Aperol Grapefruit Spritz
- 3 oz extra dry cuvée (like Abbazia Cuvée Prestige)
- 1.5 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
- 1 oz Aperol
- Add Aperol and juice to a shaker with ice and shake until cold.
- Slowly add the cuvée to the shaker to combine. Stir lightly to combine.
- Strain over ice, garnish with a grapefruit peel and an edible flower, and enjoy!
8. Sunset in a Gondola
This delightful cocktail comes from one of my favorite cocktail books from last year by Beautiful Booze. The color and the flavor are pretty and inviting. I recommend using San Pellegrino Pompelmo (Grapefruit) soda. It’s not too sweet and the flavor is quite natural. I also love any excuse to use the “Grand” ice cubes from Fountain City Ice.
Sunset in a Gondola
- 1 oz Aperol
- 1 oz blanc vermouth
- 4 oz grapefruit soda
- Add all ingredients to a Collins glass and stir.
- Add ice and stir lightly to chill the drink.
And there you have eight delicious and refreshing Aperol cocktails that will leave your thirst quenched. If you are looking for other great summer cocktail recipes, try these watermelon cocktails or these citrus cocktails. There are more great ways to use Aperol, like in these cocktails featuring gin. Cheers!