How to Make — and Drink — an Aperol Spritz Like an Italian

The secret to making the popular Italian cocktail, according to the head bartender at a luxury Amalfi Coast hotel.

Aperol Spritz and Bar snacks on mediterrainian style ceramic table in Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy
Photo: Getty Images

Drop into a bar in Italy, or just about anywhere during the early evening aperitivo hour, and you're bound to see brightly colored cocktails in an orange shade resembling a vivid setting sun. And at the stunning Borgo Santandrea on Italy's Amalfi Coast — namely, at La Terrazza overlooking the sea and the casual Beach Club bar — you can see both a breathtaking sunset and the vibrant cocktails. The cocktail is the Aperol spritz, which combines prosecco with the unique, bittersweet flavor of Aperol.

Travel + Leisure spoke with Borgo Santandrea's head bartender, Ivan Stankovic, about cocktails — particularly, the popular Aperol spritz. Stankovic began his mixology career nearly 30 years ago in the Milan nightlife scene, and since then, he's worked at a variety of luxury hotels before joining the team that opened the five-star Borgo Santandrea.

We asked Stankovic about the perfect Aperol spritz recipe, which he shared below, adding, "When I make an Aperol spritz, I try to keep to the original recipe because it's not necessary to change the authenticity of a drink, especially when the result is balanced and fresh."

Here's what else he had to say about the cocktail.

Travel + Leisure: Do you see the Aperol spritz as a summer drink?

Ivan Stankovic: "The Aperol spritz has become a year-round cocktail in my eyes. Its popularity alone warrants serving the cocktail all year round. Plus, it has a low alcohol content for drinking responsibly, and it's simple to prepare at home."

What type of glass do you prefer for serving an Aperol spritz?

"To prepare an Aperol spritz, we need large wine glasses, which allow us to put the right quantity of ice to cool the drink."

Speaking of ice — large cubes or crushed ice?

"The best for an Aperol spritz are large, clear ice cubes that will cool the drink to the right temperature. We love Aperol spritzes because they're light and easy to drink, but we don't want to dilute the taste or freshness."

The usual garnish for an Aperol spritz is an orange slice. Do you ever use any others?

"Although an orange slice is the traditional garnish, I also like topping Aperol spritzes with aromatic herbs from our garden, edible flowers, or citrus peels."

Is there a difference between sparkling water and seltzers? Do you have a preference? How about a preferred prosecco?

"The best spritzes are made with seltzers and sodas that preserve the freshness of the cocktail. I prefer to not use sparkling water in the drink, and just stick with any kind of prosecco on hand."

Do you use Aperol in any other cocktails?

"I use Aperol to make other cocktails, such as classic sours, or I'll use it with vermouth and bitters. Aperol is a versatile product and easy to apply to a lot of classic drinks."

What foods go best with an Aperol spritz?

"I like to pair an Aperol spritz with appetizers such as buffalo mozzarella or cheeses with a strong taste, like gorgonzola, blue cheese, and sheep's milk pecorino; artisan cured meats; and vegetables like carrots, zucchini, and dried tomatoes."

Before you run off to whip up your own Aperol spritz, here's some background. Aperol's recipe is a secret combination of ingredients that are said to include gentian, rhubarb, cinchona, and orange, along with other herbs and roots that give it its appealing taste and color. Aperol was created in 1919 by Luigi and Silvio Barbieri in Padua, Italy, after seven years of experimentation.

The Aperol spritz came along during the 1950s, and the delicious aperitif caught on in Italy and spread around the world. The cocktail is ideal for sipping before dinner as part of the popular aperitivo, combined with light snacks. With a low alcohol content of 11%, it's also a perfect fit for the current trend toward lower alcohol drinks.

How to Make an Aperol Spritz

  1. Fill a large wine glass with ice.
  2. Pour in 3 parts of prosecco.
  3. Pour in 2 parts of Aperol.
  4. Add a splash of soda water (club soda or seltzer).
  5. Garnish with an orange slice.
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