Aperol Spritz: Recipe, 9 Variations & 4 Alternatives
Looking for a tasty, refreshing cocktail that hits the spot every time? The Aperol Spritz might just be your next go-to. However, it’s important to learn more about these drinks if you’re wanting to make the perfect version.
Aperol spritzes are a wine-based cocktail that is sparkling, hydrating, and slightly sweet with bitter and floral notes. While it originated in Italy, it has spread across the globe and really sprung up in popularity over the last couple of decades.
Many people enjoy Aperol Spritzes as a lighter drink that still has some alcohol and tastes fancy and fun.
What Aperol Spritz Is
A spritz is any drink that consists of sparkling wine (usually prosecco), soda water, and bitters. The Aperol Spritz specifically uses Aperol, an Italian brand of bitters that is made from a variety of herbs, is deep red in color, and is slightly weaker than other types of bitters.
Aperol Spritzes are commonly served as an aperitif (or a drink before dinner.)
Brief History / Origin
The name “spritz” comes from the German word spritzen, which means to spray. In the 19th century, German-speaking soldiers were occupying an area in Northern Italy and frequenting local taverns.
However, the wine served was often too strong for them, so they would ask for water to be added – creating the first spritzes.
While these original spritzes were often made from any variety of wine and still water, the recipe quickly evolved to include bitters as well as the soda water which was commonly drunk with them.
In 1919, Luigi and Silvio Barbieri perfected the recipe for Aperol, which quickly became a popular choice for spritzes. By the turn of the century, the Aperol Spritz was a bar room staple.
To make an authentic, Italian-style Aperol Spritz, you will need three ounces of prosecco, three ounces of aperol, and a splash of sparkling water. It’s important to use proper Aperol (it’s in the name after all) as the vibrant red color of the bitters, as well as its unique citrus and herbs flavor.
Aperol is also weaker than many bitter brands at 11 percent ABV (for instance, Campari is 15 percent), making it essential for a balanced one-to-one ratio with the wine.
While original spritzes used all sorts of wine, a fine, dry prosecco is the best choice for this cocktail to keep it light, refreshing, and stimulating.
If you’re ordering an Aperol Spritz out, it’s pretty likely that it will be made with club soda or soda water. However, you can opt for Italian mineral water if you want to be as authentic as possible. Spritzes are also frequently garnished with a fresh orange slice and served over ice.
Best Prosecco Brands for Aperol Spritz
As we mentioned above, a good bottle of prosecco is key for making a delicious Aperol Spritz. From La Marca to Ruffino, they all bring something a bit different to the cocktail. Here are our go-to choices.
- La Marca: La Marca is a mid-range Italian prosecco that’s very popular worldwide. Their standard bottle has fruity undertones of peach and lemon, as well as notes of honey-like sweetness
- Mionetto: Mionetto prosecco is known for its iconic orange label and dark bottle, as well as being delicious, and it’s one of the most popular brands in the world. Its palette and aroma are reminiscent of apples, black licorice, and acacia blossom
- Ruffino: Ruffino prosecco is another affordable favorite. It has fruity notes of pears, apple, and citrus, and is pleasantly tart and sparkling
- Zonin: This lovely Italian prosecco is also a great choice. Zonin prosecco has flavors of fig, nectarine, wisteria, and a hint of almond.
Recipe – How to Make an Aperol Spritz
One of the great things about Aperol Spritzes (and spritzes in general) is that the recipe isn’t too strict. Feel free to play around with the proportions to get the drink just how you like it. However, as a guide here’s our go-to simple spritz recipe.
First, fill your glass almost to the brim with ice. Then, pour in three ounces of Aperol, filling the glass about a third of the way up.
Then add in three ounces of prosecco, or eyeball the same amount as the Aperol. Finally, top your glass with soda water, garnish with a fresh orange slice, and enjoy.
Calories in Aperol Spritz
One of the best things about the Aperol Spritz is that it is pretty low-calorie and great for guilt-free sipping. A standard Aperol Spritz is usually only 125 calories.
This makes it even lighter than many other frequently ordered low-calorie drinks. For instance, a vodka soda is 133 calories. You can further lighten this drink by increasing the amount of soda water you add in proportion to the booze.
Time & Occasions for Drinking an Aperol Spritz
Traditionally the Aperol Spritz, along with many other bitter-based drinks, is served as an aperitif. In fact, the name Aperol even comes from the French word for aperitif – “apero.”
Aperitifs are served before meals as they stimulate the appetite and make the food more enjoyable. So, the Aperol Spritz is an excellent choice for a pre-dinner cocktail.
As the Aperol Spritz is served over ice and has a relatively low alcohol content, it’s also a great cocktail to drink during the day.
It’s refreshing, not too dehydrating, and won’t get you tipsy too quickly. So, feel free to enjoy a cheeky spritz in the afternoon – especially if it’s bright and sunny.
However, you don’t need to constrain yourself to only drinking an Aperol Spritz on these occasions. This cocktail is light in alcohol and calories, as well as being delicious. As such, it’s also a great choice for a night out (especially if you’re dancing) or a treat anytime.
If you want to stick to the classics, serve your Aperol Spritz with Cicchetti. Cicchetti are small plates often served in Italy to accompany an afternoon or evening drink. Here are some of our favorite cicchetti options:
- Crostini: Crostini is sliced Italian bread, topped with olive oil and put in the oven until crispy. You can have them as is, top them with a little balsamic and sea salt, or go all out and add vegetables, meats, or cheeses as toppings.
- Bruschetta: Bruschetta is the most iconic form of topped crostini. While technically you only need to add garlic and salt, including chopped tomato is the most common variety of Bruschetta. Top with a little mozzarella, basil leaves, and balsamic glaze to take it to the next level.
- Arancini: Arancini are crumbed and fried balls of risotto. They’re the perfect way to enjoy this classic Italian delicacy in a finger food form.
- Tarallini: If you want to keep things simple, you can always serve your Aperol Spritz with crackers or breadsticks like Tarallini. These snacks can be either savory or sweet, depending on your preference.
- Polpette: Polpette are mini meatballs, traditionally served with a toothpick for easy snacking. Serve them as is or with tomato sauce for dipping.
Aperol Spritzes also go really well with a range of appetizers, not all of them strictly Italian. They go well with chips, fries, or even a charcuterie spread. They’re also a great option for a boozy brunch.
Best Glass to Serve an Aperol Spritz
Officially, the Aperol Spritz is served in a stemmed wine glass. The stem keeps the drink cool and prevents the ice from melting too fast while also being easy to hold.
This larger-sized glass is also ideal to ensure you still get enough of your drink, whereas cocktail glasses are preferred for drinks served straight-up.
However, the Aperol Spritz is a pretty forgiving and versatile cocktail compared to most. It would also serve well in a Collins glass, hurricane glass, or most likely anything you have on hand.
Variations of Aperol Spritz
The Aperol Spritz is a versatile cocktail that stands up well to alterations. Feel free to switch up the proportions of the key ingredients to your preference. If you’re wanting to switch it up even more, try one of these variations.
If you want all the flavors of an Aperol Spritz but with none of the booze, it is possible. Virgin bitters are readily available as is zero alcohol sparkling wine, though sparkling apple juice also works in a pinch; just try and find a drier variety.
Alternatively, you can make this cocktail lighter (though still having some alcohol) by substituting either the Aperol or the prosecco, or by using only Aperol and soda water.
On the other hand, if you want to booze this drink up, you’re not alone. Common variations on the Aperol Spritz actually add alcohol.
This could be via adding a spirit, such as gin, vodka, or even rum, or simply by leaving out the soda water and filling the glass to the brim with prosecco.
Just ensure you inform your guests and take caution yourself if you opt to make your Aperol Spritz stronger.
Another common variation on the Aperol Spritz is to use Rose prosecco in place of white. Many popular prosecco brands over a rose option, which will make your cocktail sweeter and with an added layer of complex flavors. It also makes for a really beautiful, sunset-colored drink.
If you’re looking for the perfect summer beverage, you can always make a fruity version of an Aperol Spritz.
Simply add a little fruit juice in place of some of the Aperol or club soda and garnish with fresh fruit. Popular varieties include strawberry, blackberry, watermelon, mango, pineapple, and pear.
Aperol already has orange notes, so it’s natural to want to emphasize them. Try adding Cointreau or triple sec, and a little fresh orange juice or Orangina. Plus, you already have the garnish to match.
Other citrus fruits also complement the flavors in an Aperol Spritz very well. Similarly to with orange, you can add in a little lemon or lime juice, as well as a citrus liqueur. Just make sure to swap out your garnish to properly highlight the tart, sweet flavors.
Enhance the freshness of your spritz by adding cooling flavors like cucumber, rhubarb, mint, and/or basil. Add in syrups or liqueurs, as well as the plants themselves. If you’re okay with a little more alcohol in your cocktail, this variety goes especially well with a little gin added in.
If you enjoy the kick and bitterness of the Aperol, you can lean into those flavors by spicing up your Aperol Spritz. Adding in serrano peppers will ensure your drink is as spicy as you’d like it.
Compliment the palette with strawberry syrup, rock salt, lime juice, or even a little tequila.
If you prefer cold to hot, you can easily make a frozen Aperol Spritz. You will just need to freeze your Aperol, plus some orange juice beforehand.
Then blend with your prosecco and some ice, and garnish with orange. Add in some frozen strawberries for a sweeter and pinker drink.
Similar Cocktails You Will Enjoy
If you’re a fan of the Aperol Spritz but want to branch out, give one of these cocktails a try. Highly recommended are the Campari Spritz and the Negroni Sbagliato, among others. They all embody the spirit of the classic cocktail but are unique in their vibe and flavor:
To make a Campari Spritz, combine three ounces of prosecco, two ounces of Campari, and one ounce of soda into a wine glass filled with ice.
You then garnish with an orange slice or sometimes a green olive, depending on your preference. Campari is similar to Aperol in that they are both bitters, but they are slightly different.
Aperol is dark orange in color and a little sweet, while Campari is stronger both in alcohol content and bitter flavor (and is a dark red).
This cocktail of internet meme fame is a great option if you’re looking for something similar in flavor profile to the Aperol Spritz. Sbagliato is Italian for mistaken or bungled and refers to the drink’s origin story.
According to legend, this drink was born when a bartender was asked to make a Negroni but grabbed sparkling wine rather than gin. The resulting drink is lighter than a classic Negroni as a result, as well as sparkling.
To make a Negroni Sbagliato, you add one and a half ounces of sweet vermouth and one and a half ounces of Campari to a cocktail shaker or mixing glass filled with ice, and stir until combined and chilled.
You then strain into a champagne flute, top with prosecco, and garnish with orange peel. Alternatively, you can serve these drinks on the rocks if you prefer.
The Venetian spritz is very similar to the Aperol Spritz, though it keeps things more old-fashioned and traditional.
The primary difference comes from the proportion of the ingredients, and the use of Select Aperitivo, which has a slightly more complex flavor and hints of vanilla.
To make this cocktail, simply add two ounces of Select Apertivo, three ounces of prosecco, and one ounce of soda water to a wine glass filled with ice. Stir gently to combine, and garnish with an orange wheel and green olive.
Lillet is a French aperitif made from aromatized wine and has notes of honey, orange peel, passionfruit, and pine. You can make a simple spritz using equal parts Lillet (most commonly Lillet Blanc) and sparkling water, serving over ice and adding an orange slice garnish.
The use of a wine-based spirit gives you all of the notes of sparkling wine and bitters found in an Aperol Spritz, but with fewer ingredients.