The heat this summer reminds me of our visit to Rome last year at the height of an epic heat wave that was ripping through Europe. I have fond memories of almost melting into a puddle atop the Colosseum and bravely telling my husband and son to “go on without me” as I sneaked off to find some shade and, hopefully, something cool to sip on.

Everywhere we went in Italy, we saw beautiful people, eating beautiful food, in beautiful places, with beautiful drinks. In Rome, especially, we kept seeing the same drink, over and over: Glass after glass filled with a glamorous liquid sunset, made to look even more tantalizing with a floating slice of fresh orange… and ice. Lots of ice.

Instinctively, I knew that this must be the famous Aperol Spritz cocktail — the summer drink of Rome and Italy. Featuring Aperol liqueur, prosecco and club soda, this sun-kissed cocktail called to me like a siren song, luring me in with the promise of refreshment that would cool me down and possibly even dress me up, or at least keep me from appearing too wilted.

One sip and I knew I would (eventually) make it back to the Colosseum without melting. Two sips and I knew I had a new favorite drink for summer.

Aperol is an Italian aperitivo (pre-dinner drink) with notes of rhubarb, bitter herbs and orange. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Aperol is an Italian aperitivo (pre-dinner drink) with notes of rhubarb, bitter herbs and orange. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Aperol is a bitter Italian aperitivo similar in style to Campari but with less than half its alcohol content, making it ideal for a summer “sipping” cocktail. An aperitivo, or aperitif, is a liqueur, often with bitter notes, that is served before a meal to stimulate the appetite.

Vibrant and fiery in color, Aperol is a blend of flavors that include rhubarb, bitter herbs and citrus, especially orange. Its high sugar content lends a lovely touch of sweetness to counter the bitterness, which is common in Italian aperitivos and believed to help promote good digestion.

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A traditional Aperol Spritz cocktail contains two parts Aperol to three parts prosecco if preparing a batch for a party, or 2 ounces Aperol and 3 ounces prosecco per drink. This is a cocktail match made in heaven.

Prosecco is a bubbly, unpretentious and affordable Italian sparkling wine that goes well with everything and, like Aperol, is suited for sipping. A splash of soda water and a slice of orange are all that’s left before you’re on your way to the most fashionable, and delicious, summer sipping around.

Sarah's Aperol Spritz Old-Fashioned blends the traditional Italian cocktail with bourbon and maraschino cherries for perfect summer sipping. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Sarah's Aperol Spritz Old-Fashioned blends the traditional Italian cocktail with bourbon and maraschino cherries for perfect summer sipping. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

For another flavor twist, try my Aperol Spritz Old-Fashioned. This big-batch cocktail recipe combines my two favorite cocktails by adding bourbon, maraschino cherries and cherry syrup to the Aperol Spritz recipe.

Before adding any liquor, fill the bottom of a large pitcher with maraschino cherries and orange slices, and use a muddler or wooden spoon to mash them together. Then, add the Aperol, bourbon and prosecco, and serve on the rocks with more cherries and orange slices.

Maraschino cherries and orange slices are muddled together before adding the Aperol, bourbon and prosecco. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Maraschino cherries and orange slices are muddled together before adding the Aperol, bourbon and prosecco. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

While it may be too hot to do much cooking these days, it is the perfect time to cool down, Italian style.

So, find a shady spot, sip away and enjoy la dolce vita.

Aperol Spritz cocktails are the perfect refreshment for hot summer evenings with family and friends. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Aperol Spritz cocktails are the perfect refreshment for hot summer evenings with family and friends. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Classic Aperol Spritz

PRINT: Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe

Makes: 1 cocktail

Ingredients:

Ice

2 ounces Aperol

3 ounces prosecco

1 orange slice, cut in half

Splash of club soda

Directions:

Fill a wine glass ¾ full with ice. Add the Aperol and prosecco and stir to combine. Place the orange slices inside the glass and finish with a splash of soda. Sip and enjoy.

Sarah’s Aperol Spritz Old-Fashioned

PRINT: Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe

Serves: 6 to 8

Ingredients:

10 maraschino cherries, plus 2 additional for each glass

4 orange slices, plus an additional half slice for each glass

1 teaspoon cherry syrup for each glass

6 ounces Aperol liqueur

4 ounces bourbon

1 bottle (750 ml) prosecco

Ice cubes

Club soda

Directions:

Place 10 cherries and 4 orange slices at the bottom of a large pitcher. Use a muddler or wooden spoon to mash the cherries and orange together until the cherries are broken.

Add the Aperol, bourbon and prosecco and stir to combine.

To serve: Place 2 cherries and half an orange slice at the bottom of each glass and mash them together until the cherries are broken. Fill each glass with ice, then add a drizzle of cherry juice over the cubes.

Pour the Aperol mixture into each glass and finish with a splash of club soda. Serve and enjoy.

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“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.