With summertime fast approaching, we’ve turned our attention to warm weather cocktails. While mezcal cocktails and rum-based drinks are solid options for the sunny days of summer, there are few spirits more perfectly suited than the Italian aperitivo. And the distillation of the aperitivo experience exists in the Aperol Spritz.
The Aperol Spritz had a spike in popularity a few summers ago as the bubbly beverage became nearly ubiquitous. And for good reason. Boozy, fizzy, and fun, an Aperol Spritz can transport you to an Italian piazza in no time.
But, there are detractors who would argue that the Aperol Spritz is not the end all be all of the summer aperitivi. And I would agree. So, in an effort to diversify your drink choices, we’ve put together a guide for the best substitutes and alternatives for the Aperol Spritz.
What Is an Aperitivo?
Before we get in the weeds, it’s good to establish some guidelines. An aperitivo, like an aperitif, is an alcoholic drink typically enjoyed before a meal and/or in the early evening. It’s the precursor to your night. While individual spirits (like Campari or Aperol) themselves can be considered aperitivi, the tradition of an aperitivo often calls for a mixed drink. A Negroni or a Boulvardier could count as an aperitivo but the Aperol Spritz has cemented itself as the patron saint of aperitivo hour.
What Is the Aperol Spritz?
The Aperol Spritz is one of many variations on the Italian spritz, which calls for prosecco (or any sparkling wine), some bitter spirit, and soda water. With its roots in the early 20th century, the spritz is now a mainstay of Italian drinking culture. And by the early 2010s it had taken a hold of the American market, too. Aperol in particular originates in Padua, Italy in 1919 but was closely tied to the spritz from the drink’s inception. In 2003, when the Campari Group acquired Aperol, the Aperol Spritz was cemented as the warm-weather cocktail for Italians.
Aperol Spritz Recipe
The Aperol Spritz is incredibly simple. You’ll need a dry, chilled prosecco; Aperol; some soda water; and ice.
- Combine 3 parts Aperol, 2 parts prosecco, and 1 part soda water in a large wine glass over ice.
- Stir gently.
- Garnish with an orange wedge or slice.
The Best Aperol Substitutes for Your Spritz
I’ll be the first to profess my love for the Aperol Spritz. But, the Aperol fever came to a contentious head when the New York Times published the controversial article: The Aperol Spritz Is Not a Good Drink. While I fundamentally disagree with that headline, I do admit that there are superior options for the spritz. Aperol is incredibly sweet, even cloying and there are better, more balanced Italian spirits. While the Aperol Spritz is a solid standby, it’s worth mixing things up with an even better aperitivo. Below are some of the best apertivi substitutes.
We’re kicking things off with the classic. Campari is by far the most popular Italian spirit and has become synonymous with the Negroni cocktail. But, Campari is just as good sipped neat, enjoyed on the rocks, or mixed with some soda water. For a slightly more bitter take on the Aperol Spritz, grab a bottle of Campari.
Select is arguably Aperol’s biggest competitor, though it hasn’t made as big of a splash in the US. Personally, I think Select is the superior aperitivo. Plus, the Venetian liqueur is inextricably tied to the history of the spritz which originated in Venice. Most importantly, Select offers a better balance of flavors and that luscious dark red color is just lovely.
Cappelletti is a slightly more under-the-radar Italian spirit, but it is an excellent choice for your spritz. The unique bottle is eye-catching, the liquid itself is vibrant, and the flavor is bright and bracing. Paired with prosecco, it’s an excellent spritz alternative.
Sprissetto is a modern Italian spirits company that traces its recipe back to the 1800s. Combine that with the clean branding and passion for all things aperitivo and you have one of our new favorite brands. Sprissetto makes three aperitivi options: Classic, Venezia, and Bitter. Experiment with all three for unique, subtle, and delicious twists on the spritz. Unfortunately it’s not yet available in the states but mark your calendars for early 2023 or make a trip to Venice to get some bottles.
Faccia Brutto Aperitivo
Faccia Brutto has been making waves in Brooklyn for a couple of years now as one of the latest American brands to lead the Italian spirits charge. Inspired by the bitter booze of Italy, Faccia Brutto crafts a variety of excellent spirits. While I’m particularly fond of their fernet, the Aperitivo is perfect for a summer spritz.
One of the brands to kick off the American bitter spirits craze was Brooklyn’s own Forthave Spirits. Their simply titled Red is one of the best aperitivi on the market and is great for solo sipping or enjoying in a refreshing spritz.
St. Agrestis Inferno Bitter
Rounding out the Brooklyn triumvirate is St. Agrestis. For their take on the aperitivo, try Inferno Bitter. Juicy, refreshing, and bitter, this spirit is excellent and might make your new favorite spritz.
The Best Alternatives to the Aperol Spritz
Now that you have sufficient substitutes for Aperol in your spritz, we’ve decided to put together a few spritz-y alternatives for your summer drinking. When in doubt, it’s hard to go wrong with a bright bitter Italian spirit and some soda water.
Need an Aperol Spritz alternative? Ditch the prosecco and add Campari. As the more vibrant, bitter aperitivo, Campari makes for a particularly refreshing companion to tonic or soda water. Serve it with ice and an orange slice to enter peak summer mode.
I’ve been a Spaghett evangelist for a few years now, singing the praises of this oddly delicious beverage. I’m a little unclear as to who coined this concoction, though Bon Appetit gives the credit to Baltimore, MD’s Wet City Brewing. Regardless, this beer cocktail is a perfect example of Aperol’s versatility. Simply pop open a bottle of Miller High Life, top it off with some Aperol, and squeeze in a lemon wedge. Voila! Magic in a bottle.
The Americano is a fantastic, thirst-quenching cocktail. It’s considered to be the foundation for the Negroni and was developed for the American tourists in Milan. It’s a beautifully simple drink that combines equal parts sweet vermouth and Campari and a healthy dose of soda water. Cool off with an Americano this summer.
If you’re not particularly fond of sparkling cocktails, you can’t go wrong with a Negroni. This aperitivo cocktail is boozy and bracing with equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. Serve it on the rocks or neat in a chilled glass.
And add a touch of fizz with the Negroni Sbagliatto, which translates to wrong Negroni. Swap in prosecco for the gin and you’ll find a nicely balanced, bubbly cocktail.