The New York Times has started a fight and if we know Sydney well – and we think we do – we reckon you’d like us to go on the record and say, “Cease and desist big-time newspaper.”
It published a story yesterday entitled “The Aperol Spritz Is Not a Good Drink”. “The Aperol spritz isn’t actually good,” wrote Rebekah Peppler. “Served in branded, jumbo wine glasses, the sugary aperitif is paired with low-quality prosecco, soda water and an outsize orange slice, resulting in something that drinks like a Capri Sun after soccer practice on a hot day. Not in a good way.”
New York magazine’s Grub Street followed shortly after with a refutation: “Entire Internet Agrees Aperol Spritz Is, in Fact, Good.”
And while we agree there are some equally amazing spritzes that are overlooked and often overshadowed by the ideal pre-meal cocktail – and you can absolutely find some badly made spritzes across town – the Aperol spritz is by no means bad and we think this simple fact renders Peppler’s argument void.
We acknowledge Aperol isn’t the most complex of the Italian bitter spirits, but its low alcohol content (11 per cent) and restrained bitterness make it easy to drink, especially if the sun is shining. The trick is to always use quality prosecco when making it, to balance the saccharine amaro. As Saveur’s Carey Jones argues, “It’s a great gateway aperitivo.”
There are actual stats to back up the claim that lots of people love it. According to Drinks International, a global drinks journal launched in 1972, the effervescent neon-orange cocktail – made with the slightly bitter Aperol, prosecco, a splash of soda, ice and an orange garnish – is the ninth best-selling classic cocktail in its annual list based on votes from bars around the globe. (Number one was the Old Fashioned; Negroni number two).
“The Aperol spritz is popular again – just like it was in the 1950s. It’s up two places and features in the top 10 for the first time, with 30 per cent of bars naming it in their top 10. Created by the Barbieri Brothers in the 1900s, Aperol was their answer to a lighter pre-dinner tipple.”
It seems the drink is a particularly good accompaniment to water views. According to Solotel, staff at its Opera Bar have made 19,000 of the drinks in the past year. At one of its other venues, North Bondi Fish, it sold 9000, while at its landlocked Golden Sheaf, 6,000 were consumed. Across its entire portfolio (Chiswick, Paddo Inn and more), 69,961 Aperol spritzes were sold and sipped in the past 12 months.
“Aperol spritz is one of our top-selling cocktails across the group at Solotel, particularly in those venues that are close to water or in an area that caters to a younger audience. We’ve noticed a spike in sales of the cocktail in the last two years and we see a big increase in sales over the summer months,” says Solotel group sommelier Matt Dunne.
So to celebrate the good-times cocktail, here are some Sydney venues serving a decent Aperol spritz – or if you want to have one at home, we’ve got a recipe to make your own.
This busy Italian restaurant makes the spritz two ways. There’s the traditional Aperol version and also one made with Select Aperitivo, which was invented in the 1920s in Venice and features 30 botanicals. “Aperol has that glorious colour and that’s what probably why it’s taken off as it has, but Select is a bit more bitter than the sweeter Aperol. It has a Campari-esque flavour to it.”
Even if you really don’t dig the Aperol spritz, it’s pretty easy to enjoy one while taking in the view at Bondi’s Icebergs bar. Like Fratelli it has an option made with Select Aperitivo, coupling it with herbaceous Italian aperitif Amaro Montenegro and prosecco. If the classic is good enough for you, Icebergs does that as well.
Barangaroo bar Banksii has an impressive list of vermouths and garnishes its Aperol spritz with an olive and a slice of orange. There’s also a Contratto Bitter spritz that teams Contratto (an Italian aperitif similar to Campari) with rhubarb bitters, prosecco and ruby grapefruit.
The focus at Surry Hills joint Caffe Bartolo might be the food, but its drinks list is damn solid, too. Masterminded by creative director Grazia Di Franco, it devotes its first page of the cocktail menu to the Aperol spritz in all its variations. They wanted to show just how varied the drink can be, throwing in authentic ingredients from all over Italy, such as Amaro Montenegro and Mancino Bianco Ambrato vermouth.
This Must Be The Place
This Must Be The Place’s thing is spritzes, so you can bet an Aperol spritz from here will be made with high-quality prosecco and the perfect balance of ingredients. If we haven’t yet convinced you that Aperol spritzes are, in fact, excellent, This Must Be The Place has a slew of drinks that may get you on board the spritz train. There’s a fino sherry number with Tanqueray gin, lemon and basil, and a strawberry, citrus vodka, watermelon riesling and rosewater spritz that’ll convert even the most diehard anti-spritzer.