Our February Featured Libation of the World comes from stunning Italy
What is this orange spirit?
While traveling around Europe in recent years, there is a trend that is hard to miss. There is a lovely vibrant orange cocktail at every bar you walk in or pass. In our recent visit to Palmero, Italy, it was by far the most common drink on order. There were bars; it seems that was all they serve, as its promotion was so heavy. The marketing that has brought this aperitif to the forefront has been brilliant.
The aperitif that is sweeping the world by storm is Aperol Spritz. The main ingredient is Aperol, which originates from the Venice region of Italy. The tradition of stimulating the appetite via an aperitivo, or light alcoholic beverage, has centuries-old roots in Italy and remains a cornerstone of the culture today. According to Walks of Italy, the modern version of an aperitivo may stretch back to 1786.
With the incredible success of this libation, we felt it deserved a bit more research and to have its story told.
Some Aperol history
Aperol was first produced in 1919 in Padua in Northern Italy near Venice. The brothers Silvio and Luigi Barbieri created the recipe for the bittersweet orange liqueur. They presented it at a trade show in Padua in 1919. That original recipe remains unchanged to this day. But it took some time for it to find its audience. It wasn’t until after World War II that Aperol really gained attention on a global scale.
The Italian way of life, enjoying an aperitif before dinner, seemingly took the world by storm after WW2. The slang word for apéritif is ‘apéro,’ where the name Aperol is derived.
The true success of Aperol came with the sale of the company to Gruppo Campari in 2003. They started an inspired marketing campaign that introduced it throughout Europe then launched it in North America. In the United States, even newspapers took note of the amount of Aperol spritz being drunk. Before you knew Aperol and, more specifically, Aperol Spritz was everywhere.
The success of this aperitif seems to be because it’s like drinking a big, cold glass of refreshing sparkling water. What makes it fun is it is not overly sweet, has some fascinating flavors, and is slightly bittersweet. It is simply unique.
Aperol’s Timeline: 100 years and counting
In 1912 the Barbieri brothers, Luigi and Silvio, inherited the family liqueur company of their father, Giuseppe. Over the next seven years, Luigi and Silvio, through dedication and experimentation, perfected what is known as Aperol today.
As WW2 came to an end and in the years that followed, Aperol became a popular hit all over Italy. Especially among young adults gathering in cafes in Padua and the Venetian bacaros.
In the 1950s, the now world-famous recipe that made Aperol Spritz a success was born. “Il Carosello,” the first Aperol TV commercial, hit the airwaves.
From Venice to the world stage.
Aperol Spritz becomes an international aperitif; in the process, it gains a more cosmopolitan and sophisticated appeal. To be seen with Aperol Spritz meant something.
What was likely the turning point of Aperol’s reign, the product was acquired by Italy’s Gruppo Campari. This new alliance delivers an influential advertising campaign behind Aperol Spritz across the international market. The marketing was brilliant, and over the following years, Aperol became associated with art, advertising, music, and lifestyle. It achieves astonishing success throughout the world and in its birthplace Italy.
Aperol is now a household name. In 2012 Aperol Spritz made it into the annals of history with the largest Aperol Spritz toast in the world. More than 2,600 gathered in Piazza San Marco in Venice, and Guinness World recorded the event.
2019 and on
Aperol celebrates its 100th birthday. Now, at its greatest time in popularity, it is recognized worldwide as the sparkling refreshing gem to enjoy while gathering with friends and making connections.
- Aperol contains 11% alcohol by volume, similar to wine.
- It is gluten free and vegan
- Aperol is nut free and not made with any equipment that comes in contact with nuts
- It is claimed that 300,000 spritzes are drunk every single day in the Veneto region of Italy
- Aperol Spritz’s are usually served in a classic stem wine glass or a low tumbler
- When in Italy the “place” to savor a true Venetian Aperol Spritz is in a bacaro, traditional bars found in the narrow streets of Venice.
The herbs and spices
The closely guarded secret recipe involves utilizing an infusion of these herbs and spices. The flavors noted in Aperol are bitter orange, gentian, rhubarb, and cinchona, among other secret ingredients. Let us learn a bit more about each of these ingredients.
- Bitter orange usually involves gently baking the zest of an orange until dry.
- Gentian is an herb that comes from the root of a flowering plant that most often has violet blue trumpet shaped flowers. It known for it medicinal use, especially in digestive issues.
- Rhubard is a spring vegetable known for it lush green leaves. The vibrant pink stalk is the edible part and is has distinct flavors. The roots and stem that are below ground you can find in Chinese herbal medicines. The Rhubarb leaves though are poisonous.
- Cinchona is a tree. The bark contains quinine and is used as the flavoring in tonic water. People use the bark to make medicine. Cinchona uses include increasing appetite; promoting the release of digestive juices; and treating bloating.
Can you drink it straight?
Aperol was drunk straight for about thirty years and was targeted toward women and people trying to stay in shape. In the 1950s, bartenders began using it as a component of a spritzer. A spritzer is a German-style drink that dates back to the 19-th century. The story goes that Austro-Hungarian soldiers found Italian wines too strong and requested that they be “spritzed” with sparkling water to make them lighter. Hence the humble beginnings of one of the world’s most favored cocktails.
Straight up, Aperol is far too bitter for most people’s liking. You will still find, though, some people prefer Aperol straight up.
What is the difference between Aperol and Campari
While both Aperol and Campari have Italian roots, they were born 145 miles away and 59 years apart from one another. First came Campari, a namesake brand by Gaspare Campari, which was a hit from the very beginning. The company was deeply set into Italian culture, especially in Milan, where Camparino, the first Campari bar, was opened in 1867.
Today, the two brands are often confused or used interchangeably as they share several key traits: vibrant hues, Italian origin, and flavors that blend both bitter and sweet. This is where taste comes in. Aperol combines the flavors of rhubarb, bitter herbs, and burnt orange, while Campari offers undertones of cherry, clove, rhubarb, cascarilla, cinnamon, and orange peel. Aperol is sweeter than Campari, which has a more intense bitterness.
But try it for yourself as you will find distinct differences between the two popular apéritifs. But in comparison to Campari, Aperol is lighter, brighter, and less bitter. A fact that makes it a perfect ingredient for low alcohol cocktails.
Check out the Official Aperol site
Not loved by all
It’s not loved by everyone, though, and it received its bad press. The New York Times once ran a headline that stated, “The Aperol Spritz is Not a Good Drink.” They went on to suggest that the beverage tastes similar to a children’s chewable multivitamin or a Capri Sun. The article also complained about the low-grade Prosecco being used in the spritzes.
Where to purchase Aperol?
There is no need to leave room in your luggage for Aperol. It can be found in virtually every liquor store in the US. It is imported from Italy, and it is the same version you will find overseas. Save your luggage space for other trinkets. If you have a friend who is a massive fan of Aperol Spritz, you can purchase some logo glasses for a fun gift.
The price in the US or a standard 750 ml bottle of Aperol tends to be in the upper teens. It can be found often near the wine section since it has similar alcohol content.
Choosing your Prosecco
Crisp Prosecco offsets the bright and slightly bitter Aperol, and that final splash of soda keeps things balanced. You shouldn’t pick up just any bottle of bubbly to mix with Aperol. Many Prosecco’s are sweet, and others can be dry. The key is finding the word brut (dry) or extra brut (mildly off-dry) on the label. This may be confusing, but if you see the word dry, that means the bubbly is sweet and may make your Spritz somewhat sugary, as Aperol itself isn’t terribly bitter. In our experience, we prefer an extra brut.
In the end, choose what you enjoy the most. If you had an exceptionally excellent Aperol Spritz at a bar, ask them what brand of Prosecco they use. Champagne can be substituted if that is what you have on hand.
An orange wedge is a traditional garnish, but most people don’t know that green olives are used often.
May we suggest a few recipes for cocktails?
Planning a trip to Italy? Check out our Italy Travel Guide
Venice and Aperol Photo Gallery
© 2022 Wanderers Compass All Rights Reserved
Learn more about Italy, Check out Italys Official Tourism site
Check out most recent blog posts
Providing a detailed summary of our experiences from our six-country trip for those curious…May 16, 2022
“Whenever you go on a trip to visit foreign lands or distant places, remember…April 18, 2022
Cover photo from Skinos Mastiha Official Website Our March/April Featured Libation of the World…April 17, 2022
Delft Netherlands is a delight and a must-do during any visit to South Holland.…April 5, 2022
An in-depth look at Medjet Assist Global Medical Transport “All human plans [are] subject…March 31, 2022
Bringing Italy Home Stanley Tucci says that he never orders Pasta Carbonara outside of…March 24, 2022
Want to learn about Wanderers Compass?
Our Recommended Travel Resources
Our favorite travel insurance site!
If you are booking a trip, don’t forget to get travel insurance within 14 days of your first booking. We could not be stronger advocates of being well insured. Not for the little stuff but the big stuff like medical emergencies. We never leave home without it. Over the years, we have used many sites but have now found our go-to place. Squaremouth.com does a fantastic job; it has a user-friendly interface, they use top-rated and reputable insurance carriers, and most policies cover Covid medical issues and cancellations. They also mediate on your behalf if you have problems with your policy.
Medical transport back home from anywhere in the world
They are the premier global air medical transport. One caveat to travel insurance is that medical evacuation usually gets you to the closest facility to care for you. Medjet gets you back to the US to the hospital of your choice once you are stable enough to fly. They cover Covid-related transports as well.
Medjet carries its own policies. The policy is only for transport and no other aspects of travel insurance. They have individual trip policies starting at $99 and annual policies for $295. Most of their policies limit the age to 74 and younger. Prices are not based on age below that.
Hotels, home rentals, BNBs, flights, and other transportation & tours
Expedia is a US-based company whose mission is to power global travel for everyone and everywhere. Whether planning a family vacation, booking for business, or organizing the trip of a lifetime, they are a fantastic resource. Wanderers Compass focuses on independent travel, and using sites like Expedia makes that possible. Every aspect of travel you would need, from airfare, accommodations, rental car, cruises, to activities to do at your destination, can be booked on Expedia.
Hotels, Home rentals, BNBs, Flights, and other Transportation & Tours
Booking.com connects millions of travelers to memorable experiences, various transportation options, and incredible places to stay – from homes to hotels and much more. It is one of the world’s largest travel marketplaces for established brands and entrepreneurs of all sizes.
We always start with Expedia to check prices, but it sometimes says it is sold out. We then try Booking.com, and we find it lists plenty of rooms. It could be they are a Europe-based company. Try both before booking accommodations.
Traveling with a family or having an extended stay at your destination?
With over 2 million bookable vacation rentals, VRBO connects homeowners with families and vacationers looking for something more than a hotel for their trip. The VRBO community offers families or groups various rental property types such as condos, cabins, lake rentals, beach houses, etc.
VRBO is under the Expedia group ownership now, which many were worried about, but it hasn’t panned out to be a concern. It is a massive network that also has access to all forms of lodging should issues arise. Joelle has used VRBO for many years with her family, with no problems to date.
Discover Europe by Train
Rail Europe sells train and bus tickets for travel across Europe. They cover 24 countries, 105 rail operations, and 20,000 stations. They are the official rail and bus operations agents in the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Rail Europe continues to add coverage all the time.
It is a fast, easy and economical way to purchase train and bus tickets for Europe. Eurail passes are also available to buy through their site.
An excellent source for travel essentials and guides
Amazon is one of the most extensive shopping online sources in the world. On behalf of their customers, teams worldwide provide lower prices, better selection, and rapid delivery. They offer a vast inventory, and it is their 1.7 million small and medium businesses worldwide selling on Amazon.com that provide extensive options for customers.
We buy most of our travel books, accessories, and luggage from Amazon. We have ordered up to two days before travel and get what we need.
Thoughtfully Designed | Meticulously Constructed | Quality Guaranteed.
We have used this luggage for years, left briefly to try others, and returned to Travelpro. Travelpro luggage is carried by crews from over 90 airlines worldwide.
Travelpro takes the time to learn what travelers want and need, then builds it. The key factor for us is that it must be lightweight upfront and very resistant to rough handling. Their luggage is the best, and we could not recommend it enough. It is our go-to luggage.
Travel documentation made more accessible
iVisa.com is dedicated to providing customers with a simple, fast, and reliable way to get travel documentation for their journey. Their online application process makes getting visas, health declarations, or passport photos a breeze, all from your home’s comfort. As a leading independent company in the travel documentation industry, they take pride in making global travel more accessible for everyone. In the end, it is a simple and affordable travel resource to get the necessary entry documents complete for your international travel.
This section contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!