Summertime, or springtime if you’re in New York, is two parts sweaty subway fumes and one part after-work cocktails. On every street corner, in every inch of the city, five o’clock hits and the bar scene crawls with young professionals, having switched out of their work shoes, in pursuit of the best happy hour around.
With the knowledge that the next work day looms at an early 9 a.m., nobody is looking to get drunk or stay out until the early hours of the morning. Instead, these young adults look to the post-work cocktail: a summer celebration, a casual, take-the-edge-off social gathering — save the late nights, or early mornings, for the weekend. The drink of the summer, in the hand of every millennial with an Instagram account, should be something without too much alcohol, that goes down easy, isn’t too expensive but also isn’t a vodka soda. Isn’t that the definition of millennial? Affordable, trendy and a little outside-of-the-box.
Enter: the half-price craft beer and, of course, the Aperol spritz. The love-child of the late 1800s in Veneto, a splash of prosecco and the bitter northern Italian aperitivo Aperol, the “Spritz Veneziano” has been one of the most popular summer drinks in Italia for over a decade, and recently, has made her voyage overseas, finding another home on every bar menu in New York. Not only is the cocktail a mere 11% alcohol by volume, tasting like a slightly sweet, slightly bitter gulp of summer, it is also a bright orange hue, like sun in a glass, dripping with cool condensation.
Recently, The New York Times dropped a hot take when Rebekah Peppler declared “The Aperol Spritz is Not a Good Drink,” and to her point, I’d have to strongly disagree. The internet, quite frankly, “broke” when Peppler’s piece was published. The millennial voice shouted in distaste to her polemic against the beloved beverage, dotting every rooftop bar and hightop table in a large wine glass, with an oversized ice cube and some sort of environmentally friendly, probably striped, paper straw.
When it comes to the Aperol spritz, what’s not to like? It doesn’t break the bank, it’s low-calorie and it comes without a hangover, making it the perfect choice for a summer weeknight. Italians drink the spritz like water. It accompanies every meal, even breakfast at times, and is the summertime Italian cure to everything: heartache, illness and dehydration. In my short time in Italy recently, the northern cities were on the brink of spring — afternoons rising to a warm, young 65 degrees, and with the sun, the Aperol spritz came out too. The Aperol spritz is a social icon: She mends relationships, opens conversations and is that giggly friend you bring along when you want to have a good time, laugh until tears prick at your eyes and still get home before midnight.
If the Aperol spritz were a person, she’d mismatch patterns in an effortless way, spend all of her paychecks at Glossier and have a well-formed opinion on New York’s best sushi burrito. And yes, she’d be a woman. She’d be the type who power walks smoothly through midtown in heels, unphased by tourists and men dressed up as Elmo, looking spectacular with wet hair.
She fits smoothly into every situation. She is versatile, accompanying all food well, from high-end Italian, to fried appetizers, to that extremely sleek Mediterranean-fusion restaurant at which everyone wants to eat. Yes, perhaps we do hate to love her, but that’s just the thing: She is impossible to ignore and simple to adore. The Aperol spritz — regardless of any New York Times attempt to discredit her — is here to stay.
The best part of the Aperol Spritz, though, is not her stunning color, her effortless flair or even her popularity; it’s her versatility. It’s a drink for everyone: young and old, trendy and nerdy, 21 year-olds, 80 year-olds and everyone in between. She does not drink like “a Capri Sun after soccer practice on a hot day,” and if she does, then she was made wrong. Instead, when made just right, she drinks like summer’s sweet kiss, cool and sultry, lingering on your lips with a little carbonation and a little bite, lasting in your mind long after you part ways.
I think where Peppler went wrong, or perhaps, where she went right, lies in the adage “all press is good press.” When her editors sent her Aperol spritz attack to print on a Thursday afternoon in May, all it seems to have done from where I’m sitting is remind us just how much we love the drink. When 5 p.m. hit, we shut off our desktops, changed our shoes, clocked out of the office and beelined to the nearest bar.
And we said, “I’ll have one Aperol Spritz please, and keep ‘em coming.”