Greetings from Europe! I’m headed on a little summer vacation to Paris, Tuscany and Florence — a much-needed respite from the madness of the past few weeks in two of my favorite places in the world. I’ve been to both places, so I’ll be doing less sightseeing and more experiencing — think long, leisurely meals, people-watching in piazzas, and a fair amount of aperitifs in the afternoon.
Aperitifs are a hallmark of Italy and France (no coincidence that that’s where I’m headed …) and originated as a light drink to prepare the stomach for the large dinner to come after. They’re usually fairly dry and not terribly alcoholic, which means they’re perfect for summer drinking. In France, kir, pastis or even champagne are popular aperitifs, depending on the region you’re in. In Italy, a dry white wine, vermouth or Aperol spritzes are all the rage.
Aperol has been around since the early 20th century, but didn’t become popular until after World War II. It’s similar to Campari (the essential component of a perfect negroni), but less bitter and less alcoholic (11% alcohol by volume compared to 25-ish% ABV), and has a pleasant orange flavor. Some genius decided to start serving it with prosecco and soda in the 1950s, and we all really owe that human because there is something about a fizzy, fruity, slightly bitter cocktail that just satisfies all summer drinking needs.
The best part is, there’s no fancy cocktail-mixing or complicated recipes involved. It’s simply 3 parts prosecco, 2 parts Aperol and a splash of club soda on ice. I like to swish my orange slice in the glass so that everything gets a good mix, and boom, your drink is ready.
It’s the perfect cocktail for beach parties or cookouts, since everyone can kind of help themselves — just leave the prosecco in an ice bucket with the club soda and Aperol, a shot glass and slices of orange. Serve it at your Fourth of July party (or any other party you have this summer) or make one for yourself, perhaps as a very delicious consolation prize if you are not living la dolce vita right now. …