Each summer, there seems to be a new "it cocktail." Last year saw the return of the 80s with the espresso martini. This year, the "Dirty Shirley," a vodka-spiked Shirley Temple, is a hot contender for the drink of the season. But my go-to is always the Italian Aperol spritz.
The 3-2-1 mix of Aperol, Prosecco and soda is the perfect combination of fruity, bitter and sparkling. I'm not alone in my adoration of it. Over the last decade, there have been so many pieces published about the cocktail's merits, followed by pieces about how it's overrated, followed by more pieces about its greatness.
However, if you happen to be in the "It's overrated" camp — or just aren't a fan of the bitter citrus kick it provides — have no fear. There are other Italian cocktails for you to enjoy sipping this summer. Here are three to get you started.
Matthew Orawski, Eataly's North American beverage director, said in a recent phone call with Salon that once summer hits, he's always looking for low-ABV cocktails that are ideal for sipping outside somewhere on a patio (which is summer goals for us all, I believe).
One of his favorites is a simple play on the Aperol spritz.
"I personally like to substitute my Aperol with vermouth," he said.
Unlike Aperol, which is an apéritif, Vermouth is a fortified wine that has a subtly spiced flavor with a hint of bitter on the finish. It can be either sweet — the variation that is used in cocktails like the Manhattan — or dry, which is commonly used in martinis.
"It's a little lighter and has this great profile of herbs and spices," Orawski said. "Sometimes you can just simply make it without the soda, so just two ounces of Vermouth and Prosecco, and you're done."
"If you wanted another classic Italian cocktail that is a little more bitter, you could try a Negroni," Orawski said. " It's equal parts gin, equal parts Campari and equal parts sweet vermouth."
The resulting cocktail is definitely a little boozier than your typical spritz, but it also comes with some tremendously nuanced flavors. Garnish it with a juicy orange slice for a nice seasonal touch.
Finally, there's the sbagliato, a cocktail whose name roughly translates from Italian to "mistake."
As Salon's Erin Keane wrote, it came into being when, according to the stories, "a bartender reached for the wrong bottle while mixing a Negroni, pouring sparkling wine instead of gin into the glass of vermouth and Campari."
The result is like a sparkling negroni, with a masterful blend of bitterness, sweetness and effervescence. You can check out Keane's recipe here.
Need a snack to pair with your drink? Try these simple sweet and savory recipes:
- This riff on a classic Southern pie is comfort in a bite — and the leftovers taste great for breakfast
- French-inspired lentils are the easiest cure for your winter blues — and they're impossible to mess up
- The viral feta pasta dish everyone's raving about is even better without pasta
- A chocolate sandwich tastes exactly as comforting as it sounds — and it's sublime