There is possibly no greater skill than that of mastering the Italian aperitivo. Ok, that's an exaggeration but there are few things more enjoyable. Even on my first trip to Italy at 12 years old, I took to aperitivo because so many places serve patatine (potato chips) and, anytime there are free potato chips, I'm in. Once I got older, I moved on to chilled glasses of Prosecco because, when it's hot and humid in the midst of the summer, what could be better, right? Well, a handful of years ago, I found the answer: the Spritz.
The Spritz is a cocktail served throughout the Northeast part of Italy, with a variation in almost every town from Verona to Venice. It's a low-octane cocktail (aka low alcohol) so it makes happy hour enjoyable without overdoing it. And the key is that it's a bit bitter and bubbly which combines to make a super refreshing drink. At the most simple it's some sort of white wine -- sometimes sparkling, other times not -- mixed with an Italian bitter aperitivo such as Aperol, Campari, or even Cynar. Because Aperol is a little lighter on the bitterness than the other two alcohols and it has a hint of rhubarb and citrus flavor, it's pretty perfect for a happy hour drink. But I'll let you judge that for yourself -- just be sure you still include your favorite potato chips and olives or it just isn't quite aperitivo.
sliced for garnish
Add a few ice cubes to a wine glass, put in the Prosecco or sparkling wine, the Aperol then top with an orange slice and a splash of soda and serve.
Food styling and photography by Aida Mollenkamp