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Illustration by Maya Chastain

Vibrantly orange and delightfully effervescent, the Italian-born aperol spritz is the perfect drink to make if you don’t know a thing about cocktails but still want to impress your in-laws. (And it’s relatively low in alcohol — 11 percent — so you can have a few without falling on your butt.)

The aperol spritz (also called a spritz Veneziano) is named after the key ingredient, aperol. Made from gentian root, rhubarb, and cinchona, aperol is known for its bittersweet flavor.

The liqueur was created by Italian brothers Silvio and Luigi Barbieri in 1919, but the cocktail we know and love rose to fame in the 1950s when Italian socialites took notice of the drink’s irresistible aesthetic. With the help of their notoriety, the aperol spritz was anointed to cocktail glory.

Namesake

The name “aperol” is derived from the French word “aperitif” — a pre-dinner cocktail that’s supposed to stimulate appetite.

Today, the aperol spritz is still the No. 1 choice for happy hours all over Italy and beyond. And while the drink recently took heat for being “not good” from the high and mighty New York Times, we’re all here for the aperol spritz’s unapologetically frivolous nature.

If you’re jonesing to start your evening imbibing something a little sweet, bubbly, and refreshing, here’s your complete rundown on the aperol spritz: the traditional recipe, yummy variations, and epic aperitivo food pairings that will transport you immediately to a piazza in Venice.

The aperol spritz is super simple to whip together. It requires just four ingredients and a bodacious glass (yes, this is necessary) for serving. The “3-2-1” proportions also happen to be very easy to remember on the fly.

Ingredients

  • 3 parts prosecco
  • 2 parts aperol
  • 1 part soda water
  • 1 orange slice

Directions

  1. Add ice to your wine glass.
  2. Pour in prosecco.
  3. Follow that with aperol.
  4. Top it off with a splash of soda water.
  5. Garnish with an orange slice and enjoy!

The OG aperol spritz is amazing just the way it is, but if you’re ready to switch things up, try getting creative with these delicious variations — all of which, of course, feature our Italian pal aperol.

Rosé aperol spritz

If you thought the aperol spritz couldn’t get any more summery, allow us to introduce you to the summer beverage to end them all: the rosé aperol spritz. This recipe leans hard into the rose theme with a splash of rose water and a rose petal for garnish. We have exactly zero complaints.

Get the recipe!

Strawberry ginger spritz

This variation is a bit more elaborate than the original, with muddled fresh strawberries, simple syrup, and a splash of ginger beer. The ginger brings a zippiness that plays well with the aperol’s bitterness.

Get the recipe!

Amalfi spritz

The Amalfi spritz is like if the aperol spritz went on vacation to the Caribbean and decided not to come home. It maintains the aperol and prosecco elements and adds a lime and pineapple kick. This drink absolutely requires one of those little paper umbrellas.

Get the recipe!

Holiday aperol punch

For the black sheep who can’t wait for summer to be over, we found this holiday-ready aperol punch. The muddled rosemary tastes like how it feels to bundle up in your favorite sweater. The recipe is designed for making big batches, so you can stay a little tipsy all winter long.

Get the recipe!

Aperol and beer: An unlikely match

Try adding a splash of aperol to your favorite IPA or wheat or sour beer — it sounds bizarre, but that little kiss of bitterness is really fun and delish.

The bittersweet aperol spritz is an aperitif at heart, which means it’s meant to rev up your appetite (Italians almost always eat while they drink). When choosing bites to serve with your cocktail, opting for small portions of salty snacks is the traditional Italian way — it makes you thirsty for more!

Meat and cheese plate

An arrangement of cured meats and cheeses makes for the ultimate happy hour food to take the edge off.

For cheeses, choose something that brings out the bittersweet flavors of the cocktail, like Chevriou, Brillat-Savarin, or Rove des Garrigues. Meatwise, you can’t go wrong with salty prosciutto or salami.

Get the recipe!

Potato chips

Yes, seriously — the light and salty crunch of this lowbrow nosh actually makes for an excellent pairing with a spritz.

Smoked salmon crostini

This bite-size appetizer, which features baked bite-size baguette brushed with olive oil, cream cheese, and smoked salmon topped with lemon and dill, will really complement the light, bitter flavors in the aperol spritz without overpowering it. Plus, it looks elegant (just like the drink).

Get the recipe!

Cicchetti

This traditional Venetian array of small side dishes meant to be eaten with fingers or toothpicks makes the perfect accompaniment to a late afternoon spritz on the porch. Think: olives, nuts, hard-boiled egg halves, calamari, artichoke hearts, and tiny sandwiches with meats, seafood, and veggies.

Get the recipe!

Brunch

While the aperol spritz is really supposed to be an aperitif, the cocktail has begun popping up all over American brunch menus right alongside the mimosa and Bloody Mary. So we say order the fried egg and focaccia sandwich, sip away, and enjoy your Sunday.

Even with straightforward cocktail recipes, there’s always room to perfect your craft with pointers from the pros. We leaned into Michele Alfonso, mixology instructor at the New York Bartending School and head bartender at Esca, for expert tips and tricks for making the perfect aperol spritz every single time.

  1. Always use prosecco. An Italian aperitif calls for Italian bubbly, after all! Plus, prosecco’s flavor profile leans fruitier and a touch sweeter than other bubblies, so it works well with the aperol (instead of competing with it).
  2. Use a Collins glass. While most people serve aperol spritzes in white wine glasses, Alfonzo prefers this glass because it helps the bubbles stay concentrated. That way, you don’t lose them as much as you would in a wide-mouthed glass.
  3. Chilled is better. Always keep your aperol cold in the fridge and pre-chill your glass — your spritz will taste much better!
  4. Add ice and prosecco to the glass first. Then add the aperol — this will help prevent the aperol from settling at the bottom.
  5. Play with garnishes. While the orange slice is traditional with a spritz, substituting a lemon slice makes for an extra-fresh flavor. Olives also pair really well with prosecco if you want to put a savory spin on the drink.

Brooke Sager is a freelance writer who shares her musings on wine, wellness, beauty, relationships, and all things lifestyle.