Cocktail consultant, Liquid Productions
Co-owner, Pacific Standard
Co-owner, Clover Club, Leyenda, and Milady’s
Aperol has remained an approachable entry point to the world of bitter liqueurs for over a hundred years. Though it’s often compared to its stylistic sibling, Campari, a distinctly light profile makes Aperol more appealing for certain cocktails, particularly spritz variations that benefit from the liqueur’s bright notes.
This bottle isn’t intended as a solo sipper, so its utility and value will depend on how often you plan to incorporate the ingredient into mixed drinks. However, in the pantheon of Italian red bitter liqueurs, it remains essential.
Classification: Red bitter liqueur
Company: Campari Group
Expression: Italian red bitter
Essential for the Aperol Spritz and well-suited to mixing in various drinks
Approachable gateway option for those getting into Italian bitter liqueurs and amari
Good value for price
Not intended for sipping neat, on its own
May disappoint fans of more complex aperitivo-style liqueurs
Color: Vibrant red-orange
Nose: Bright bitter orange; hints of vanilla, grapefruit, rhubarb, melon, and sage
Palate: Gently bittersweet and orange-forward
Finish: Medium-long and slightly bitter
Suggested uses: Aperol Spritz, Paper Plane, a gentler Negroni variation
“Aperol is a great gateway for learning how to enjoy Italian bitter spirits,” says Julie Reiner. All of our reviewers suggest that those who are new to the category try a classic Aperol Spritz, which combines two parts Aperol, three parts prosecco, and one part club soda.
“Using a dry sparkling wine and the right amount of sparkling water will help tame the sweetness,” says Jeffrey Morgenthaler.
While this classic combination remains a fantastic entry point to showcase Aperol’s versatility, both Reiner and Jacques Bezuidenhout suggest thinking beyond the spritz. Bezuidenhout recommends the Paper Plane, a Sam Ross-created modern classic that combines bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino Quintessa, and lemon juice.
“Aperol makes a great Negroni variation and is very mixable in general,” says Reiner. “Tequila, rum, gin, and vodka all work with Aperol to create tasty cocktails and spritz variations.” She notes its relatively low 11% ABV, which makes it an ideal ingredient for brunch cocktails or low-proof drinks.
Like any bitter liqueur or amaro, Aperol is an acquired taste, but it will likely appeal to most drinkers. “This is a good entry-level aperitivo,” says Bezuidenhout. Reiner calls Aperol “Campari with training wheels,” in reference to the more bitter amaro that stars in the Negroni. Select Aperitivo is a good in-between choice, she adds.
Morgenthaler finds Aperol less versatile than others on the tasting panel, but he enjoys it in an Aperol Spritz. “The flavor and color are somewhat artificial, but since Aperol is never meant to be sipped on its own, these qualities are superficial,” he says. “In general, it is a delicious aperitif. [It] makes one feel sophisticated without requiring a ton of thought.”
Like many amari and bitter liqueurs, Aperol has a closely guarded recipe that hasn’t changed since its debut in 1919, but known components include bitter and sweet oranges, as well as rhubarb. Many also speculate that cinchona bark and gentian comprise part of the recipe.
For many, Aperol is synonymous with the spritz that shares its name. But the Italian liqueur predates the beloved drink by a few decades.
In 1912, brothers Luigi and Silvio Barberi inherited their father’s company in Italy’s Veneto region. Inspired by the growing trend of pre-dinner aperitif drinks, they sought to create a unique aperitivo for their city, Padua. After seven years of experimentation, they debuted Aperol at the 1919 Padua International Fair with a proprietary recipe whose known components include bitter and sweet oranges and rhubarb.
In the 1950s, Aperol released the recipe for the Aperol Spritz, a cocktail that more or less persists in its original form to this day. It combines the liqueur with prosecco, which also hails from the Veneto region, along with a splash of club soda. For half a century, the Aperol Spritz was mostly consumed in Veneto, but that changed when global company Gruppo Campari purchased the brand in 2003. A marketing push in the 2010s helped popularize the drink in the United States.
—Written and edited by Audrey Morgan
Your Aperol Spritz will be stronger in Germany than anywhere else in the world, thanks to bottlings that reach 15% ABV rather than 11%. The extra proof is due to a German tax law called Einwegpfand, which imposes a 0.25 euro surcharge to glass and plastic bottles that contain liquids with an ABV below 15%. Increasing the alcohol allows the producer to avoid the extra cost.
The Bottom Line
This approachable and citrusy bittersweet liqueur is an essential ingredient for the classic Aperol Spritz, but is versatile enough to be mixed into countless other drinks. Our reviewers say it’s a great gateway aperitivo to enjoying other bitter Italian liqueurs and amari.