If you think you’ve seen more Aperol spritzes this year, you’re not wrong. And if you’ve been drinking more of those sparkling red-orange drinks in pretty stemmed glasses, you’re doing exactly what the makers of Aperol at Campari hoped for.
“We saw there was a growing interest in Aperol in the U.S., especially at summer events and destinations,” said Melanie Batchelor, the vice president of marketing at Campari America. “We invested behind that.”
The citrusy bitter liqueur has been popular in Italy since the 1950s, but it took a coordinated push to bring “sunshine in a glass,” as Ms. Batchelor described it, to the United States. The marketing plan was a savvy one: It started in New York with a flurry of Aperol spritz booths that were installed at popular summertime events, including the Jazz Age Lawn Party and Governors Ball.
In the Hamptons last summer, Campari turned a little scooter car into a bar and drove it around offering free spritzes. The company also wrapped a Hampton Jitney — a bus that transports weekenders from Manhattan to the Hamptons — in full Aperol orange, with a spritz recipe and the message, “So it’s orange-y and bubbly at the same time. Plus it’s super popular in Italy, so you know it’s good.”
On the other side of the country, the company served them from the windows of Instagram-ready booths at hip destinations, like Splash House in Palm Springs, KAABOO festival in Del Mar, Calif., and the outdoor event series Eat See Hear in Los Angeles.
That the drink is an attention-grabbing orange certainly helps. At Aperol-adjacent events, it’s not unusual to see friends posing for photos, clinking their spritzes in the sun. And they might even be wearing Aperol accessories. Campari merch — Aperol spritz-themed wine glasses, straws, umbrellas, sunglasses and orange fans — has infiltrated social feeds.
The strategy seems to be working. According to Nielsen, Aperol sales rose 48 percent since last summer.
“It’s not just in New York. We’re seeing strong growth with Aperol across the country,” Ms. Batchelor said.
Aperol was created by the Barbieri brothers in Padua in 1919, inspired by the Venetian-style mix of white wine and soda. The classic Aperol spritz is made with the red-orange aperitif and prosecco or champagne, with a splash of club soda.
Over the last five years, Aperol has become a staple liqueur for many bartenders and can be found on menus all over the city, several New York restaurateurs said. But it wasn’t until this year, they all agreed, that we could declare it the drink of the summer. (Some maintain the Campari spritz is next.)
At Caffe Dante in the Greenwich Village, the classic Aperol spritz is so popular that it is kept on tap, like beer. The drink is poured from a 10-gallon keg, and garnished with an orange slice and an olive.
“We have a special aerator for it,” said Will Oxenham, the beverage director there. “It speeds up the process, and keeps the flavor consistent and violently refreshing.” He noted that as recently as 2016, “people were still drinking oceans of rosé” and few people were ordering Aperol spritzes, but this year and last, the bar has consistently gone through six to nine cases of Aperol a week. The bar also serves an Aperol ice pop.
For Estelle Bossy, the bar director at La Sirena, putting a spin on the classic spritz was a bit of a mission. With more than a decade’s experience in the beverage industry, she knew that the classic Aperol spritz would be popular this summer, so she decided to up her game by creating a frozen Aperol spritz in the style of frosé (a rosé wine slushie). Ms. Bossy’s concoction is made with Aperol, prosecco, grapefruit juice, lemon, orange flower water and vodka, served in a chilled goblet with a small stem, and garnished with a huskberry.
“I wanted you to look at it and think of ice cream soda or a gorgeous parfait,” she said. “I wanted people to see it and just go, ‘O.K., I’ve got to have that.’”
The frozen Aperol drink has been, without competition, the restaurant’s most popular summer beverage, Ms. Bossy said. On the day of the Pride parade, the restaurant made about 600 of them.
In Harlem, the French restaurant Barawine has become a popular spot to grab a spritz. Filip Maksimovic, the head bartender there, said he has made more Aperol spritzes this year than in the previous two years combined.
“Last year, I went through a bottle, maybe two, of Aperol per month, but this year we’re going through a case of six,” Mr. Maksimovic said. “And for a bar where most people come for the French wine, that’s a lot.”
And It’s Here to Stay
The spike in Aperol consumption is in line with a rising demand in the United States for herbal bitter liqueurs, or amaro, more generally. Traditionally these bitters, including Cynar, Campari and Fernet-Branca, have been produced in Europe. But now, American-made versions are beginning to hit the market.
It makes sense. The negroni, in which amaro is a key ingredient, has also become more desirable in the last decade. (Campari put “consistent investment” into marketing negronis, too, Ms. Batchelor said.)
So, will the Aperol spritz follow in the footsteps of frosé, an elusive summer specialty drink turned Taco Bell menu item? Or could its moment in the sun be fleeting?
“The Aperol spritz is here to stay,” Ms. Batchelor said. “It plays into trends — Americans are starting to appreciate more bitter tastes and they want more drinks that are low in alcohol content.”
Jody Williams and Rita Sodi, the owners of the restaurant Via Carota in Manhattan, agree with Ms. Batchelor.
“It’s light and fresh,” Ms. Sodi said. “What’s really unique to the Aperol spritz is that you can drink it all night long.” Certainly all summer long, too.