You bought a spirit or liqueur because a cocktail recipe called for a very minute amount. Now you’re stuck with the remaining 9/10ths of the bottle and what to do with it. No worries. Thrifty bartenders weigh in with tips and recipes for getting every last drop out of an underutilized ingredient so it doesn’t gather dust on your bar shelf.
What’s bright and orange and found in wine goblets all over? The Aperol Spritz, a refreshing combination of Italian aperitivo Aperol, prosecco and club soda, a drink so popular the recipe is printed on the back of every bottle. Considered a gentler alternative to its sister spirit, Campari, Aperol, with its flavors of orange, gentian, rhubarb and cinchona, has less than half its alcohol content and a more subtle bitterness tinged with zesty citrus notes. Despite the ubiquitousness of the Spritz, Aperol isn’t just a one-trick pony. If you’re searching for ways to use it beyond the quaffable patio sipper, these clever bartenders have come up with some ideas.
Since Aperol truly comes alive when combined with bubbles, the most seamless way to experiment with Aperol is to riff on that Spritz, says Grant Gedemer, the director of food and beverage at The Godfrey Hotel in Chicago who uses sparkling rosé instead of prosecco and adds fresh seasonal fruit. “You can also add it to a Gin & Tonic,” he says. “The dryness adds a nice complement to the citrus, and the effervescence brings out its flavor too.”
“Though bitter, it’s fundamentally light, lending itself to marrying with many other flavors,” says Joe Palminterri, the food and beverage director at Hamilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. He also makes use of seasonal produce for Aperol Spritz variations, including one with muddled cantaloupe, orange bitters and prosecco and another with muddled limes, berry-flavored vodka and lemon-lime soda. Adding complementary spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and turmeric increases each cocktail’s complexity.
“Aperol reminds me of bitter grapefruit, refreshing and bright,” says Kevin Murphy, the bar director and assistant manager of Daisies in Chicago. “Of the bitter red Italian spirits family, I find it the most approachable and less divisive.” He adds it to a Sangria with red wine and tangy kombucha and believes it works wonderfully with lighter spirits, although he admits that the Paper Plane, a bourbon-based modern classic, proves that’s far from a hard-and-fast rule.
Gina Buck, the beverage director at Concord Hill in Brooklyn and a big cheerleader for the orange hooch, uses Aperol in several drinks. One is a take on her favorite cocktail, the Last Word, swapping it in place of the usual green Chartreuse and adding Alpe genepy. She also believes half an ounce of Aperol and muddled cucumber in a traditional Margarita recipe really amp up the freshness. “Aperol tames your tummy, lingers on the palate and refreshes your tastebuds,” she says. “It’s the best of all worlds, and it looks damn pretty in a stemmed glass.”
Ben Lohnes, the bar manager at The Tides Beach Club in Kennebunkport, Maine, usually describes Aperol to the uninitiated as “Campari’s younger sibling that’s less angry.” It’s his favorite liqueur to play with, and he finds it pairs especially well with drier less-botanical gins, such as locally made Batson River gin.