The Rise of Aperol Spritz: From Italy to Worldwide Popularity
By Peyton Whittington Published May 2023
If there’s one drink that can make us feel like we’re lounging at a White Lotus, it’s an Aperol Spritz. This bubbly, bright orange drink is a staple at bars, restaurants and summer parties, but what is it about it that has captured the tastebuds and Instagram feeds of so many?
First, let's talk about what exactly is in an Aperol Spritz. The eponymous star ingredient is Aperol, an Italian liqueur that's been around since 1919. Aperol is made with bitter and sweet orange, rhubarb and other herbs and spices that give it its signature orange color.
The drink is then mixed with prosecco, a dry Italian sparkling wine, and a splash of soda water. The result is a refreshing, slightly bitter and citrusy drink that's perfect for sipping on a hot summer day (and couldn’t be easier to make at home; just check out the recipe below).
Though Aperol wasn’t created until 1919, the spritz as a style of cocktail has been around since the 1800s when the Austro-Hungarian empire controlled parts of Italy. Soldiers and visitors from other parts of the empire were said to have found Italian wines to be a bit too strong for their liking, so they diluted their glasses with a splash (or spritz, in German) of water.1
By the early 1900s, aperitifs were all the rage as the trend of sipping pre-dinner drinks grew in popularity. So, when two brothers, Luigi and Silvio Barbieri, launched their new, brilliantly colored liqueur at the 1919 Padua International Fair, it was an instant success.2 The first official recipe for the Aperol Spritz was found in an advertisement for the liqueur in the 1950s, marking the beginning of the cocktail’s rise to fame.3
In addition to its simplicity and balanced flavors, the Aperol Spritz is also cherished for its versatility. It can be enjoyed at brunch, as a pre-dinner aperitif or a midday refresher. The bitterness of the Aperol and the sweet bubbles from the prosecco make it a cocktail that's easy to drink, but not too sweet or overwhelming. Add in the fact that it’s low in alcohol content, and you’ve got the perfect libation for those who don’t typically drink.
But we’re overlooking perhaps the biggest reason for the Aperol Spritz’s rise in popularity: it’s one photogenic cocktail. With a drink that looks like an Italian sunset in hand, who wouldn’t want to snap a photo? (Or a video, if you’re Florence Pugh.)
Most of all, the Aperol Spritz commands a loyal following because it’s a symbol of Italian culture and la dolce vita, the sweet life. It’s a drink that must be sipped with good food, good company and plenty of sunshine. For that, we raise our glasses and antipasti dishes to the Aperol Spritz.
Want to put a spin on the classic Aperol Spritz this summer? Try this frozen recipe: