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The 11 Best Cocktails to Make with Aperol

Use this bittersweet favorite to go beyond the spritz.

Aperol bottle against a blue background with illustrations of various cocktails / Laura Sant

The Aperol Spritz craze that has swept the country and much of the world has introduced many to what Italians have known for years—citrusy bitter liqueur is molto buona! 

Brothers Luigi and Silvio Barbieri launched Aperol in 1919 at the Padua International Fair—a popular trade event that featured new food and drink products—held in the city of Padua, in Northern Italy’s Veneto region. At the time, aperitivo hour was popular in the region, and the range of refreshing drinks to accompany this pre-dinner ritual was growing. Aperol, with its approachable citrus-sweet flavor profile and striking sunshine-in-a-glass hue, made a splash at the fair, and history was made.

In the 1950s the Aperol Spritz was created, quickly becoming a fashionable aperitivo throughout Europe. Soon, Aperol became the best-selling spirit in Italy. The refreshing combination of prosecco, Aperol, and club soda didn’t completely take off stateside until decades later, but the cocktail has only grown in popularity in the years since. 

Aperol is often the gentle gateway spirit for the bittersweet liqueur category. It tends to be lighter in profile and not as intense as some of its more aggressive red bitter counterparts, such as Campari. With a relatively low alcohol content of 11% ABV, zesty citrus notes, and aromatic flavors of gentian, rhubarb and cinchona, it is also extremely mixable and makes for an excellent cocktail ingredient beyond the Spritz. 

Based on the endless demand for Aperol Spritzes, it’s clear that bubbles help to bring this bright orange-red aperitivo to life, but Aperol’s bittersweet botanicals also lend themselves well to a variety of base spirits from gin and mezcal to bourbon and rum, and beyond.

Here are 11 of the best cocktails to make with a bottle of Aperol.

  • Paper Plane

    Paper Plane cocktail / Tim Nusog

    The Paper Plane is a modern classic from prolific cocktail creator and bar pro Sam Ross, created for the opening menu of The Violet Hour in Chicago in 2008. A riff on the Last Word—the equal-parts drink consisting of gin, lime, maraschino liqueur and green Chartreuse—the Paper Plane follows the same equal-parts template but is composed of bourbon, Amaro Nonino, Aperol and lemon juice. Inspired by M.I.A.’s hit song at the time “Paper Plane,” Ross’s recipe even calls for a tiny paper plane garnish.

    Get the recipe.

  • Aperol Spritz

    Aperol Spritz / Tim Nusog

    This refreshing combination of prosecco, Aperol, and club soda just may be the most widely known cocktail featuring Aperol. An aperitivo staple in Italy, the Aperol Spritz has been enjoyed there for over a century. It took a little longer to be a worldwide favorite and arguably wasn’t until the mid-2000s that it reached mass appeal in the United States. This three-ingredient spritz is served over ice and garnished with an orange slice (or a Cerignola olive, if you’re feeling Venetian).

    Get the recipe.

  • Naked & Famous

    Naked and Famous cocktail / Tim Nusog

    This equal-parts cocktail, another riff on the Last Word, was created by Joaquín Simó while he was bartending at Death & Co. in New York City. Also inspired by the Paper Plane cocktail from Ross, this drink shares the equal-parts DNA and the use of Aperol. A big smoky mezcal, Yellow Chartreuse, and lime juice round out this herbaceous modern classic. 

    Get the recipe.

  • Ranye West

    Ranye West / Jeff Steiner

    The Ranye West is a cross between a Shandy and an Aperol Spritz, created by Seattle bartender Jeff Steiner. The name is meant to be less in honor of the controversial rapper than a play on a nickname given to the Pacific Northwest’s most popular cheap brew: Rainier Beer. The beer replaces the wine and club soda in the spritz, and a generous splash of lemon juice adds in some of the acidity that you might get with a Shandy. Topped with a few dashes of Angostura bitters for added complexity, you may just start to rethink your aperitivo go-to. 

    Get the recipe.

    Continue to 5 of 11 below.
  • Sauvignon Blanc Punch

    Sauvignon Blanc Punch / Tim Nusog

    This white wine-based punch from Death & Co’s Alex Day is refreshing, herbaceous, and easy to batch for a crowd. A fresh and zesty dry sauvignon blanc should be the foundation of this drink, keeping the ABV lower than most spirit-based cocktails. Grapefruit and lemon juices help to showcase the citrusy bittersweet Aperol and a touch of simple syrup adds sweetness and balances out the acid. This wine punch calls for a topper of club soda for some added effervescence. 

    Get the recipe.

  • Kombucha Sangria

    Kombucha Sangria / Tim Nusog 

    While red wine makes up the bulk of this sangria variation, it also employs a tangy kombucha and bittersweet Aperol, giving it an especially acidic bite. This recipe can be batched easily and, without a spirit-forward base, is relatively low in ABV. Play with different brands and flavors of kombucha to find the perfect sweetness level and flavor profile for you.

    Get the recipe.

  • Timberpoint Cooler

    Timberpoint Cooler cocktail / Tim Nusog

    This thirst-quenching tall drink has been on the menu at The Tides Beach Club in Kennebunkport, Maine for several years. Combining gin, Aperol, fresh lime juice, simple syrup and club soda, this crushable drink makes for a perfect post-beach sipper. Bar manager Ben Lohnes suggests using a drier, less-botanical gin, such as Maine’s Batson River gin, for the Aperol to really shine.

    Get the recipe.

  • Scarlet Spritz

    Scarlet Spritz / Tim Nusog

    This Aperol Spritz riff comes from bartender Brandon Lockman of Red Star Tavern in Portland, Oregon. He infuses the Aperol with fresh strawberries then pairs it with the wine-based aperitif, Lillet Blanc. Rhubarb bitters are added to help to accentuate the rhubarb flavors found in Aperol. An absinthe-rinsed glass adds herbal, anise-forward aromatics and a sparkling wine topper brings the bubbly spritz together.

    Get the recipe.

    Continue to 9 of 11 below.
  • Dub Treo

    Dub Treo cocktail / Tim Nusog

    Using the template of a Negroni—gin, sweet vermouth and Campari—as inspiration, the Dub Treo slightly tweaks the ingredients as well as the proportions. Replacing gin for a Jamaican rum like Appleton Estate Reserve Rum and Campari for Aperol, this cocktail also calls for a specific sweet vermouth: the lush, botanical-forward Carpano Antica Formula. With a dash of whiskey barrel-aged bitters and an orange twist garnish, the drink is slightly less bitter and sweeter than a Negroni, with notes of tropical fruit, citrus and gentian botanicals.

    Get the recipe.

  • El Chapo

    El Chapo cocktail / Tim Nusog

    This three-ingredient cocktail from Nashville bartender Ben Clemons combines a classic London dry gin, strawberry-infused Aperol, and grapefruit beer, Stiegl-Radler. The dry, botanical forward gin along with the fresh berry-flavored Aperol and the light, low-ABV grapefruit brew makes for a gorgeously red-hued drink and the ultimate crushable cocktail.

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  • Division Bell

    Division Bell cocktail / Tim Nusog

    Veteran bartender Phil Ward developed this Last Word-inspired creation and featured it on the opening menu of the now-shuttered Mayahuel in New York City’s East Village. The Division Bell was named in honor of the Pink Floyd album of the same name, played on repeat while Ward was constructing the bar. This cocktail may not have the equal-parts specs of the Last Word, but it keeps the maraschino liqueur and lime juice while swapping out gin for mezcal and green Chartreuse for Aperol.

    Get the recipe.