Arriving at my hotel in the Trevi Fountain area of Roma last week I was surprised to find the News Café next door. For a moment I thought maybe a branch of the South Beach icon had been established here during the Gianni Versace glory days. In fact, there is no connection although the barman Cristiano had heard of our SOBE institution.
The café became my nightly stop for an after dinner Averna Amaro, a Sicilian digestive I’ve been drinking for years. The News Café/Roma turned out to be a friendly place frequented by tourists and Italians alike. I had an interesting conversation one night with a local journalist.
One evening Cristiano was mixing a cocktail and I noticed him poring a tiny bottle of orange liquid into the glass. I recognized it as being a delicious Compari like soda (Brio Soda) I had at my cousin’s house in Ravello that previous week. It turns out he was making an Aperol Spritz.
Aperol is one of many Amari, Italian herbal liqueurs, you see on the shelves of Italian bars. It is bright orange in color and has a unique bittersweet taste deriving from its ingredients of: bitter orange, gentian, rhubarb, and cinchona, among others. It originated in 1919 in Padova; it was a product of the Barbieri Brothers and now part of the Gruppo Campari portfolio.
The origin of this cocktail is said to be the 19th century Austrian occupation of Italy. Its name may derive from the German verb spritzen meaning “to spray.” German soldiers would drink local Venetian wines, but because the alcohol content was so much higher than the beer they would drink back home, asked the barmen to dilute the wine with water. Thus the Spritz was born.
On my return to Miami I hustled over to Gulf Liquors, the most complete wine & liquor store on the beach, and was surprised to find a special display of Aperol at a special price. It’s been available in the U.S. for three years and I guess it just arrived here. I served the Aperol Spritz at a dinner party that night to unanimous approval.
The Aperol Spritz is a perfect cocktail for Miami. It’s not too sweet; it tastes light and refreshing and stimulates appetite. Aperol’s strength is its low alchol content, only 11%. (the sodas are only 3%) It’s a nice alternative to Campari being fruitier and lighter. I’ll be drinking it all summer dreaming of Roma while being eternally refreshed.
A proper Aperol Spritz is made over ice in this order:
3 parts Prosecco,
a splash of soda
2 parts Aperol
garnished with half round of orange