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July 27, 2011
Aperol Spritz


Despite the fact that summer is the height of the sweaty tourist crush, eating streetside in Italy is always a treat, even if only as a vantage point to appreciate the breezy chic of the locals.

Young men in sharp Armani suits scoot up to the curb on Vespas; stylish young women in towering high heels navigate the cobblestone courtyards with nary a wobble in their stride. Best of all, the restaurateurs don't fret about table turnover. During the aperitivo hour (5-8 p.m.), they expect you to slack away the first hour or two, nursing a cocktail, picking at the free cicchetti (snacks), and goggling the passing human pageant. Only an outsider would actually think that ordering dinner is appropriate at 7 p.m.

And what are the bella gente drinking to beat the heat? Well, in the north of Italy, the cocktail del giorno appears to be the Aperol Spritz. If the fiery orange glow emitting from nearly every tabletop doesn't demonstrate its overall popularity, then perhaps the 8 ft. tall billboards (usually featuring a frisky, Titian-haired model), splashed across city facades courtesy of the company's owner, Campari, will convince you. Either way, you can't escape the message.

In the cities of Venice and Verona, where we were cooling off with Aperol Spritzes last week, the refreshing drink is a local standard. And that's not surprising. Like most everything else in these Renaissance towns, the liqueur has history. The formula was created in nearby Padua, circa 1919, and has been in vogue since the second World War. Add to that, the entire Veneto region itself is a prime producer of Prosecco, which is the cocktail's second main ingredient.

Yet even outside of Italy, bartenders have long relied on Aperol as a secret ingredient in their stash to buck up a ho hum cocktail. Smoother and less medicinal than its Campari cousin, even a small shot of the aperitivo's bittersweet/herbal flavours (orange, gentian, rhubarb and cinchona) can bring balance and extra dimension to an otherwise overly sweet or lacklustre concoction. It's dayglo tangerine colour has also been known to contribute warm visual highlights to a flat brown, spirit-based drink.

Relatively new to the Canadian market, the use of Aperol as the star ingredient in a spritzer is trendier, yet it's one of the easiest summer coolers to make. Just plop 3 or 4 ice cubes in a large lowball glass, add 3 parts Prosecco and 2 parts Aperol, top with a splash of soda, hook a slice of orange on the rim, and you're done.

Now that we're back from a 10 day twirl through Italy, we're likely to indulge our new Aperol Spritz habit. The drink's sunny attitude could go far to light up an otherwise damp westcoast summer.

The one and only.
SKU 144071 11% alcohol 750mL - $21.99

A good Prosecco to keep chilled in the fridge is a
Bottega Prosecco Il Vino dei Poeti (Wine of the Poets)
It's a well made, good value Prosecco, made from Glera vines located only a few miles away in nearby Treviso. The wine's dryness will save the fizzy cocktail from any pop-like tendencies, although its delicate, flowery bouquet and fruity flavours are best appreciated on its own. SKU 95711 11% alcohol 750 mL $19.99

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