Q&A: Aperol’s brand manager on this summer’s most controversial cocktail—and a Toronto bar devoted to it
This week the Campari group will bring la dolce vita to Queen West with a new pop-up bar devoted to the internet’s most popular (and controversial!) cocktail. We spoke with brand manager Priya Shah to learn all about the new Bar Aperol, what it feels like to be the topic of a New York Times takedown and why not all spritzes are created equal.
Assuming the Aperol Spritz is a great drink—and we’ll get into that shortly—why do we need an entire bar devoted to it?
The Aperol Spritz has become increasingly popular in Canada and we really want people to experience the perfect serve. It’s a simple cocktail, but if the proportions are off, the result is not going to be as good. We also know that a lot of Canadians love travelling to Italy. We wanted to bring the country’s aperitivo culture here. We decided on a Queen West location because you’ve got the neighbourhood vibe as well as a lot of foot traffic. With a big patio and a selection of salty snacks, it’s really got that piazza terazza feel.
What kind of salty snacks?
We’re working with Cheese Boutique who have created an authentic Italian aperitivo menu for us—a selection of cured meats, cheeses, olives and peppers. You can build your own board depending on the size of your group and how hungry you are.
Does the bar serve Aperol Spritz exclusively?
Yes, although we do have a non-alcoholic version made with Crodino, and we’re also offering Lavazza espresso.
The most common garnish is an orange slice, but I have also seen it served with an olive. Is that acceptable or sacrilege?
When I first saw the olive I was convinced it was wrong but then I did a little bit of research and I learned that that’s one of the ways they do it in Venice, where the drink originated. So while we use an orange slice, an olive is a 100 per cent legit alternative. If you see it—
No need to splash the spritz in the person’s face?
You mentioned the importance of proportion. What are the most common amateur errors?
I think the glassware is really important to helping you achieve the right mix. It’s often served in glasses that are way too big, which means there ends up being way too much soda because they want to fill the glass. Another common error is going way too light on Aperol. People are inclined to put in a single ounce of Aperol because they think of it like adding a spirit to a mixed drink, but you definitely want equal portions of Aperol and Prosecco.
Wait—I thought the proportions of a spritz were 3:2:1. Three parts Prosecco, two parts Aperol, one part soda?
That was how we used to position it, and I believe that’s still how they make it in Italy, but the equal parts is really going to bring out the flavours.
And sell more Aperol! Sales have skyrocketed since the brand was bought by Campari in 2003. To what do you attribute the fervour?
I think we’ve been smart in really sticking to our guns with the spritz as the best way to enjoy Aperol.
So it’s like a purist thing? You’re not telling people to try Aperol with vodka or in a martini?
Right. We’re all about the spritz.
No doubt you saw that the New York Times recently ran a takedown called “The Aperol Spritz is not a good drink.” What did you make of that?
I mean, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I think our fans really fought back—there were a lot of Twitter responses. We just sort of sat back and watched it all unfold.
The writer of said takedown compared drinking an Aperol Spritz to “a Capri Sun after soccer practice on a hot day. And not in a good way.”
I know—that was so strange. Like, that doesn’t sound like such a bad thing, does it?
If you were arguing in favour, what would you say are the drink’s greatest merits?
I think it fits in well with the trend of low-alcohol cocktails. An Aperol Spritz is very light and refreshing. I think the bittersweet taste is very unique and sets it apart from a lot of other too-sweet cocktails. And of course there’s the colour.
Right. The colour feels pretty essential to the Aperol Spritz’s current status as Instagram’s favourite cocktail.
I think orange is just a very happy, positive colour that people respond to. It’s one of those drinks that when people see a bunch of them coming out on a tray, they’ll ask what they are and then need to try one. You probably wouldn’t have that reaction if we used a brown aperitif.