Personally, I've been captivated by Aperol ever since I first spied bottles and bottles of it decoratively lining the walls of a downtown Italian bistro many months ago. I was instantly charmed by its bright, nearly day-glow, color - and the chic retro design of the bottle didn't hurt either. I ooohed and ahhhed over it just enough to actually plant a seed in the husband's mind and shortly thereafter, he brought a bottle home.
I knew enough to know that it was vaguely orange and medicinal in flavor, not dissimilar to Campari, and that it was made from a proprietary blend of bitter orange and botanicals that's been kept secret through the years. What I didn't know was what to do with it. Naturally, I googled.
My brief search turned up probably hundreds of uses for it ... and one in particular cried out to me ... mostly because I had almost all of the ingredients on hand. First developed at the Pegu Club in New York city, the Intro to Aperol cocktail is a simple yet sophisticated little sipper that hits all the right notes for me. Its refreshing, slightly astringent, and just addictive enough to make you want to take another sip ... and another, and another and another. Below, my version.
Intro to Aperol - Diva Style:
- 2 ounces Aperol
- 1 ounce gin (we use Hendrick's)
- 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 ounce agave nectar
- dash of Angostura Bitters
- slice of lemon peel for garnish
Into a martini shaker, pour the Aperol, gin, lemon juice, agave nectar and bitters. Fill the shaker with ice, close and shake well until the outside of the shaker frosts. Pour into a rocks glass and twist a slice of lemon peel over the drink. Garnish the drink with the lemon peel. Serve and enjoy, repeat as necessary!
This recipe first appeared in the Washington Post back in November of 2009, as part of an article on classic cocktails. I gather that the original drink, as made at the Pegu Club, calls for an orange peel to be flamed over the drink. Alas, I had no oranges on hand and, to be honest, I rather like the contrast of the lemon peel I used with the already orangey Aperol.
My version also substitutes some agave nectar for simple syrup and that is a personal choice. I almost never mix with simple syrup these days, as prefer to eschew sugar where possible. For me, the agave works just as well and, frankly, I can't taste the difference. Do as you see fit.
Though generally billed as an aperitif, Aperol works just as well as a digestif. The herby botanicals, astringent orange flavor and light body, can either serve to whet your appetite or calm the storms of a too-indulgent meal, depending on your needs. It pairs beautifully with gin, vodka and works especially well with champagne or sparkling wines. Indeed, Aperol can also be enjoyed on its own - over the rocks, with a twist, or with a splash of soda perhaps. If you're of a mind, you can add a dash or two of lemon or grapefruit bitters to shake things up a bit.
My point? Mixing it up with Aperol is good fun. Which ever path you choose, you'll be rewarded with a colorful, flavorful cocktail who's festive orange glow is exactly right for summer sipping.