When looking for an Italian aperitif that's less bitter than the usual Italian Amaros, Aperol is often the preferred choice. With a low ABV and just a little less bitterness, It is a perfect aperitif. And it plays a vital role in the history of Spritz cocktails as it's the main ingredient of the most popular Spritz variation.
But except for its use in an Aperol Spritz, people rarely know much about the Italian liqueur. Time to change that and have a closer look at the interesting herbal orange-flavored liqueur that conquered the world by storm.
History of Aperol
The first time Aperol was produced was in 1919. In Padua, in the northern part of Italy, close to Venice, the brother Silvio and Luigi Barbieri created the recipe for the bittersweet orange liqueur. But the development process took some time.
In 1912 the two brothers took over the Barbieri company from their father and started working on a new recipe. In the end, it took them 7 whole years to create the final recipe. Finally, in 1919 Silvio and Luigi presented their work at a trade show in Padua.
But although the recipe was created with care -and didn't change until today- it took quite some time until it became really successful. According to Aperol themselves, it wasn't until the end of World War II. At this time, the Aperol Spritz was born and drove sales for the liqueur. This drink soon became a crucial part of life in Italy. Especially in the northeastern part of the country, Aperol Spritz was a popular drink for get-togethers with friends and family.
In 2003, the company was sold to Gruppo Campari. And from then on, the popularity of Aperol skyrocketed. First inside Italy, then in other parts of Europe. A few years ago, Campari also started marketing in North America, especially in the US, and created a huge hype. The Aperol Spritz was everywhere.
What is Aperol?
Aperol is a bittersweet Italian liqueur with less pronounced bitter notes. An aperitif of vibrant orange color that got named after the Italian word for Aperitif - Apero.
It's often confused with Campari, another famous Italian liqueur. But in comparison to Campari, Aperol is lighter, brighter, and actually less bitter. A fact that makes it a perfect ingredient for low-ABV cocktails.
The recipe is still a secret. Only a few ingredients are known. Amongst them are gentian roots, cinchona, and rhubarb. But what we do know for sure is that it didn't change since the brothers Barbierei created it in 1919.
How much alcohol is in Aperol
The bittersweet liqueur is relatively low in ABV. Generally, Aperol only contains 11% of alcohol by volume. However, in Germany, the ratio is higher, at 15% ABV. You might wonder why and some may now think that Germans just can't get enough alcohol. But the real reason is a bit more complicated.
In Germany, there's the so-called Mehrwegpfand law. That is a container law, prescribing to add between 0.08€ and 0.25€ per bottle sold if the alcohol content is below 15%. Commonly this applies to all kinds of soda cans, beer bottles, etc. Liqueurs and spirits are usually not affected, as most contain more than 15% ABV. So to avoid confusing customers, the liqueur brand decided to increase the amount of alcohol in their product for the German market.
How does it taste
The taste of Aperol is close to the taste of Italian Amaros. But, as mentioned before, it's a lot lighter and definitely less bitter. In return, the zesty orange notes, herbals flavors, and hints of vanilla are more pronounced. Described in one sentence, the taste of Aperol is bittersweet, orange-flavored with herbal notes.
Best cocktails to make with it
The most popular cocktail you can make with Aperol is, of course, the Aperol Spritz. The famous drink consists of Prosecco, Aperol, and soda water. When using proper ratio and quality ingredients, this light cocktail is a perfect summer drink.
Another delicious cocktail to make is an Aperol Sour. It's based on Aperol --obviously- and is spiked with Gin. It is a classic sour cocktail that took inspiration from other classics like the Gin Sour or Whiskey Sour. The result is a very low-ABV version of a sour cocktail, a citrusy and refreshing drink of vibrant orange color.