The Aperol Spritz first startled me as we took a stroll through Venice on our Italian vacation two years ago. I was intrigued by this drink that I saw so many Italians drinking at each cafe that we passed. I felt like I was watching a fragrance commercial.
Italian Cafe outside of St. Mark’s Square – Day
Cafe crowded with people drinking Aperol Spritz. Couples, business colleagues, drinking and laughing in discussion. Transition to a couple sitting together reflecting after a hard day at work. The woman looks up.
Says: “Insert promotion here”
Well this is how I feel like it should go anyway…
After we made our way to our Airbnb, I set out the next morning with this mystifying drink on my mind. Why was this such a massive influence on the Italian culture? Why did these Italians look so happy and carefree as they sipped it? It was interesting because it wasn’t a drunken haze that you would see in the States. Several beers or cocktails in, you start to see a downward spiral of intoxication. The intoxicated person looks through you with empty eyes and only primal urges on the mind. This was something different. The people imbibing these seemed lively and full of energy, not bogged down by pain and drunkenness. What made this so different? I had to try it!
As we made our way over to a small island outside of Venice called Burano, I discovered inside a very touristy looking shop, that they had small bottles of this cocktail. After drinking the small amount of this alcohol, I noticed that the bottle wasn’t actually the drink. It was actually just one of the components to it. Yet with the drink, my interest grew even more. The taste was sweet, yet bitter to the palate. What made this such an alluring drink to the Italian people?
We got back into Venice and I finally had my first taste of the Aperol Spritz. It was interesting and I was still somewhat uncertain of what this was. The drink is simple to make, Aperol, Prosecco, splash of soda and an orange slice over large amounts of ice. The drink is somewhat sweet but also has a bitterness to the taste. I wasn’t hooked on the flavor at first, but still very enticed on why so many people were drinking this cocktail. As we continued our journey through Italy and Greece, I saw more and more people enjoying this drink at the social hour part of the evening. The normal time you would see people getting off work, winding down before going home to change into something more relaxing for the evening.
The drink grows on you. I would often find myself at the end of the vacation, asking for an Aperol spritz above my normal beer or red wine. You feel more relaxed, not weighed down by the drink. At only 11% alcohol content for both the Aperol and the Prosecco, you won’t get overly intoxicated fast. What was interesting as the vacation went on, it made me feel more relaxed into what I view as the “European mindset”.
Let me be somewhat stereotypical now. Americans are naturally in a hurry to get everywhere in life. We get obsessed with working long hours every day at work. Then when it comes to the weekend, we party like the world is about to end on Monday. We aggressively drink, do risky activities, travel as if our life depended on it. We go, go, go, but somehow find ourselves no further along than cultures that take an opposite approach.
In Europe you see a more relaxed view. I would never say lazy, but I would say more balanced with living life as opposed to letting work dictate who they are. If you sit down in a restaurant in Italy, Germany, or France, it’s relaxed. The server isn’t coming to check on you every ten minutes to see how everything tastes. They serve your food and then often times, when you’re ready you flag them down. Europeans enjoy the time they have at a restaurant with friends. They sit there and converse, as opposed to sitting on their phones and merely glancing at their companions. There’s no rushing through the meal to get to the next task on their list for the day. Eating is a lifestyle and tasting every second of the meal is a necessity. A European lives like a retired American might live. They don’t rush it nor do they sweat the small stuff. They take it all in, the good, the bad and the ugly, and they enjoy it all.
Ok so I’m done with the stereotyping!
I tell my thoughts on the mindset of Americans and Europeans because I think it adds value to the debate on the Aperol Spritz. The spritz is the lifestyle, no the drink. Is a budweiser consumed by millions of Americans every day because of the flavor? I hope not because I would find that hard to palate. It’s part acquired taste, part the lifestyle you live. Same for the Aperol Spritz, it’s not solely on the taste, but the experience you have when you’re drinking this refreshing beverage.
There were large debates about the Aperol Spritz last year, stemming from an article in the New York Times talking about the drink being made of subpar ingredients and being below average in taste. This caused an uproar and started a debate back and forth on whether this drink is actually good. My question I would have is, does it matter? Everyone has different taste buds and we all have our ideas of what good and bad is. I’m highly doubting that you have the same taste as 20 other people in the room. You might have similar tastes, but I bet for the most part, it’s unique. Welcome to life! The Aperol Spritz to me is more the embedded idea of living life happy and refreshed as opposed to questioning if it tastes good with every sip.
As I sit here, writing and drinking my refreshing Aperol Spritz, it gives me just a small sensation as if I were back in Italy with little cares of work and pandemic. It get’s me out of my mind and makes me feel a bit more European in mindset. Have your beer or wine (and I will agree there is always time for these drinks), but for me, make it a Aperol Spritz kind of a day. I’m alive and feeling good.