In true Venetian style, Aperol recently celebrated its 100th year with romantic decadence. The iconic brand hosted an event where many Aperol Spritz drinks were poured for guests under the Italian city’s summer sun. It was here in Venice that Aperol grew in popularity before infiltrating the US. And while the apéritif’s cult-like fanbase radically charged the brand’s rise to popularity, a large part of its success came from strategic marketing.
None of this would matter, however, if it wasn’t such an enjoyable beverage to share among friends. “There are, for me, few elements that have made the Aperol spritz so successful,” Andrea Neri, managing director of Aperol owner Campari Group, says. “If you think about the moment of consumption, late afternoon or early night where you gather with your friends, you can drink a glass of sparkling wine, you can drink a beer, or you could choose to go for a cocktail. Aperol Spritz somehow hits that sweet spot between these categories.” On this, Neri notes that a spritz is “less structurally complicated than a cocktail, but has got more premium-ness in the look and feel.”
Aperol debuted to the public in Padua at the 1919 World’s Fair. Since, it has remained unchanged from the original recipe concocted by the Barbieri brothers. It was Silvio Barbieri who coined the name Aperol, having taken inspiration from the colloquial French term for apéritif, ‘apéro,’ which he discovered while visiting France. This safeguarded recipe ultimately created a mysteriously deep red-orange color that to this day lends the drink its instant recognition.
Neri says, “The orange color was a blessing. We don’t know how it was created or why it was identified as orange. We can only thank the Barbieri brothers for that. At that time, there was no digital environment or social media for them. It’s such a unique color, so vibrant, so optimistic. If you look at it, you associate orange with summer and with positive feelings. It’s also so unique and unmistakably Aperol.”
Holiday travelers from Austria, Germany and elsewhere in Europe especially observed the popular spritz cocktail-making process and the birth of Aperol Spritz. This was furthered by what the Venetians call the Bacaro Experience. The word “Bacaro” comes from “Bacchus,” the god of wine. This experience defines a typical Venetian tavern, with a very rustic atmosphere, where you can taste an “ombre” (glasses of wine) or other drinks, accompanied by cicchetti (small dishes consisting of bites like crostini, mozzarella in Carrozza and meatballs). Typically for this experience, Venetians move between bars sampling the different cicchetti while enjoying several Aperol Spritz cocktails. As travelers returned to their home countries, having indulged in Aperol-powered Bacaro Experiences, they brought the drink with them.
The original Aperol Spritz was served in a small wine glass (with less liquid and ice than nowadays) and garnished with an olive. This evolved into the globed wine glass of today. As for contemporary iterations, a full glass of ice meets equal parts Prosecco and Aperol, and a splash of soda. An orange slice garnish emphasizes the color. Neri says, “Any Prosecco can be used for a perfectly complemented Aperol Spritz, as long as it is a true Italian DOP Prosecco.”
The classic summer drink is more than a mere cocktail; it’s a cultural and social wave. It’s been debated, adored, captured in photographs and guzzled during happy hours the world over. The tipple’s color matters, of course, but more important is the unique herbal recipe and the sweetness that brings it all together.
Images courtesy of Aperol