Aperol spritz are ubiquitous in the bar scene, but the summertime favourite is just one of many variations bartenders can whip up. By Madeline Woolway. 

The aperitivo movement is in full swing, with enthusiasm for the trend giving way to interest in individual elements. Among the most popular is the spritz, but bartenders are fast discovering myriad options beyond Aperol.

Synonymous with Italy, the current darling of Australia’s aperitivo boom has origins in the Austrian empire where it was common to consume a drink of equal parts wine and soda water.

“They would add a splash of soda water to the local white wine to accommodate the palate of Austrians, who were used to beer,” says Yoann Tarditi, head bartender at Impala in Melbourne.

“In the 1950s, Italians started with prosecco, [first] adding Aperol then Amari and other liqueurs.”

While Aperol spritzes are the current craze — thanks to a concentrated marketing campaign and a partnership with the Australian Open — Tarditi cautions against complacency, arguing the category is far more versatile.

“There are so many variations; any Italian liqueur that’s sweet or bitter will work,” he says. “We have several variations that are popular, including one that uses the Australian amaro, Økar. We also have vermouth, Campari and Aperol. You just need sparkling wine, a dash of soda and off you go — you can really accommodate any palate. You also need to ensure the liqueur matches the wine.”

Tarditi does warn against using dark spirits or anything that will overpower the prosecco. Restraint is also required.

“It’s essential to be creative, but you shouldn’t over-do it,” says Michele De Martino, group beverage manager at China Diner. “There are so many liqueurs and sparkling combinations you just need to find the one that works best for you and don’t be afraid to experiment.”

While creativity is encouraged, it’s important to remember spritz is part of the aperitif category.

“You don’t want to use too many flavours,” says De Martino. “Aperitifs shouldn’t be too complicated. They should have a simple, clean taste and tickle your appetite.

“I’d say they should always include white or sparkling wine and liqueur to make things more interesting. Aperol is almost a must, but in Italy, we tend to use Campari as well.”

One of the best-selling cocktails at China Diner Double Bay, the yuzu spritz, exemplifies this approach.

“Pairing yuzu and Aperol is a great combination as they complement each other,” says De Martino. “The idea of the yuzu spritz made sense because we stay true to our philosophy at China Diner and you’ll find all our cocktails are of Asian influence.”

Grant Collins is head mixologist for Sydney’s Olio and Eastside Kitchen & Bar and he’s also the founder of Gin Lane. Collins agrees simplicity is key, suggesting bartenders stick to just two or three botanicals, which should be chosen based on the venue’s food offering and general vibe.

“The Aperol spritz is obviously legendary and has made a big comeback,” he says. “People will probably order that wherever they go. Everyone follows beverage trends, but the style of venue matters, too. The best thing is to get the menu and find out exactly what goes into the dishes, then look for flavours that don’t overlap too much.

“At Olio, we use Regal Rogue wild rose vermouth, cold-pressed pink grapefruit and Aperol topped with sparkling wine. Think about garnishing with thyme or rosemary and vibrant colours, such as pink grapefruit or blood orange.”

Collins has also managed to track down a supplier who imports Rosso blood orange juice. It’s the same ingredient used to make Rosso vermouth, meaning the flavours bind — similar to the complementary combination of yuzu and Aperol. “Find a unique ingredient, but it’s still all about simplicity,” he says.

After all, the goal is to offer a light, easy-drinking cocktail that opens up the palate and relaxes the mind.



This article originally appeared in the February issue of Hospitality magazine. Subscribe here.


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