The New York Times has declared the Aperol spritz a bad drink. And boy, are spritz lovers mad.
The annoying thing about “The Aperol Spritz Is Not a Good Drink,” which has succeeded wildly in riling up fans of the aperitif, is that the headline fails to communicate that the article isn’t so much about hating Aperol as it is about loving a more complex spritz made with subtler spirits. It’s offering up the same solid and fairly obvious advice you hear about cooking with wine—crappy wine makes whatever you add it to taste…not great. Sure, low-quality prosecco can ruin an Aperol spritz. But not because the drink itself is flawed.
So what? It’s just a drink, right?
The spritz isn’t so much a drink as a lovely and gracious idea about drinking, and the Aperol version is the perfect introduction. It’s a gateway cocktail.
A spritz is any combination of wine, sparkling water, and bitter spirit, most often an Italian amaro, served over ice. It’s low proof, for the leisurely kind of drinking that happens on long summer evenings or at afternoon barbecues. They’re not just delicious and refreshing, they’re also low enough in alcohol that you can keep drinking for a long time without getting wasted. A spritz is the essence of conviviality.
An Aperol spritz is an easygoing drink. The summer sunset color is inviting. It’s not overly bitter. Some amari are incredibly bitter, and even Campari, another popular Italian spritz spirit that is quite sweet comparatively speaking, has a very divisive flavor. There’s a place within the spritz culture for a broadly appealing cocktail—it doesn’t all have to be tongue-numbingly bitter to be worth drinking.
If you do want to branch out
There’s a whole world of spritzes to enjoy, using interesting amari from all over Italy, and swapping out prosecco for other sparkling or still wines.
I like to make a very basic, very fast and loose rosé spritz by filling a glass with ice, pouring in equal amounts of rosé and seltzer, then adding a lemon twist and about four shakes of bitters. A half ounce of amaro of any kind would add complexity (it’s perfectly refreshing without, too).
If you want to dive deeper into the world of casual, grown-up drinking, I highly recommend Spritz by Talia Baiocchio and Leslie Pariseau. It’s a whole book that explores the Italian tradition of having a bubbly, bitter, bright drink in the early evening with some salty snacks to pique the appetite before dinner—and make a moment for sparkling conversation.