A backlash? Against the Aperol Spritz? Say it ain't so. Say there's no one arguing with the simple brilliance of a sparkling and bittersweet cocktail drunk near an Italian beach on a sunny summer's day. Say this hasn't happened. And yet, it has.
It's the work of The New York Times, of all publications. A few months ago, one of the paper's correspondents penned a take-down of this cherished aperitif. "It isn't actually good," Rebekah Peppler wrote, lighting the fuse of internet fury. "It lacks complexity," she quoted Rome-based food writer Katie Parla as saying.
To which the collective response from readers seemed to be: "Cazzata!"
We, respectfully, do not agree.
And nor should we, because an Aperol Spritz is a thing of beauty. And an Aperol Spritz drunk in situ, in its home Italian environment, is pure ambrosia.
For the uninitiated, the drink is this: a cocktail served in a large wine glass, a mix of Aperol – an orange, bittersweet aperitif – and prosecco, plus a splash of soda water, poured over ice and garnished with a slice of orange. It's meant to be drunk in the daylight hours, a grown-up alternative to tiki-style cocktails with umbrellas.
Everyone remembers their first real Italian Aperol Spritz. Everyone. This is a drink that somehow perfectly captures the essence of an Italian summer with nothing to do, the feeling of sitting there at a terrace on a cobbled lane, or overlooking a beach from a plastic table, or staring out from a balcony at olive groves and grape vines, and rolling green hills. It's tanned skin, salty hair and sultry warmth in a glass.
My first was on a Sardinian beach, sand trickling between my toes, the drink's bubbly burnt orange matching the setting sun. It was smooth with the satisfaction of a day well spent, but charged with the excitement of the night coming, of the food, of the wine, of the people and the place.
Many are the sad travellers who begin drinking Aperol Spritzes at home to try to recreate the magic of Italy. This is a cocktail that stays with you, that represents something beautiful in your mind in the same way that little cup of espresso or the warm bowl of pasta does.
Sure, the drink is not as bitter and biting as a negroni, which is possibly the world's best cocktail. But it's not supposed to be. It's supposed to be easy to drink, to enjoy before having another splash in the Mediterranean, to sip beachside before heading home for a pre-dinner shower.
The art of the Aperol Spritz is not so much the cocktail as the surrounds. It's the atmosphere. It's the feeling. It's Italy. The New York Times should know that.