I wasted a lot of time not knowing about Aperol spritzes, but I like to think I've made up for it since. Made with rhubarb and a proprietary blend of herbs, Aperol is less alcoholic than Campari and boasts a citrus brightness with an almost grapefruit-rind like bitter edge. As such, it is reminiscent of a floral, bitter, orange. Plus, it's gorgeous, like a sunset in a glass.
Part of the appeal of any aperitivo in Italy (like an Aperol or Campari spritz, but even a glass of prosecco, etc.) it comes with a selection of treats. There is a kind of delight in seeing that tray of spritzes arrive and wondering what else is on that tray? Because it could be anything—little tuna sandwiches, cut up pistachio cornetto, something you've never seen before. Whatever surprises come with an Aperol spritz, it's a sure statement that there's just nothing like a golden day edging towards evening, an array of salty snacks, voluble conversation, and a glass full of sunset-hued bliss.
And it turns out, Aperol spritzes are taking the world by storm, if this New York Times article is any indication.
Spritz parties are one way that we keep Italy alive while on American soil, as the flavors, the effortless fun, and companionship all recall what we love about la dolce vita. It's an easy celebration, you can pick up most or all of the fixings. And ask your friends to bring a dish to share, for a table full of treats. It'll be mostly snacking foods, but that really adds up to dinner.
There's lots of room for latitude here, but the mainstays of the snacks that go with Aperol spritzes are potato chips, olives, and peanuts. You know, salty things that mellow out the bitter-orange edge of the spritz, making it particularly refreshing. If I can find taralli, those round breadstick-like crackers often flecked with fennels seeds, I get them, as they are also ubiquitous Aperol spritz sides.
The one thing I like to actually cook for my spritz parties is focaccia pizza. I bake it mid-afternoon and it easily keeps. With one batch of dough, I can make several flavors of pizza, adding to the zest of the evening. My current fave based on the forno's offerings during our recent trip home to Spello is focaccia pizza with zucchini flowers. They also had one with guanciale, but I've found that hard to source in Charlottesville. I can usually bum some zucchini flowers off of a friend who has them growing in their yard. What it took me some time to realize is that there are two types of zucchini flowers, those that form on the end of the zucchini fruit (gardeners are understandably loath to spare these) and those that form on the ends of nothing, just flowers with long stems. Those your friends may not know they can comfortably share with you as it won't impact the plant. Pro-tip: "Volunteer" squash plants, that is ones that grow from discarded zucchini or pumpkin, are sterile. They have only flowers, no fruiting bodies. This is me, advocating for lazy gardening. Just chuck your zucchini somewhere in your yard and see if you get lots of flowers the next year.
If you are feeling super-motivated, you can also make hard boiled eggs with a bit of anchovy (or slices of buttered bread with a slice of hard boiled egg and that bit of anchovy or sliver of olive). Or prosciutto wrapped melon. Or a salumi and cheese platter with grapes. Or a salad of fresh mozzarella and basil and olive oil. Or cubes of frittata. Or you could recreate a dish you enjoyed on your last trip to Italy. This can double as a conversation starter.
Aperol Tip: Next time you are going through duty-free, nab some Aperol. A one liter bottle is half the price that 750ml is here in Virginia. We're kicking ourselves for not loading up, but honestly we always assumed that duty free was a robust scam.
So next time you are wondering what to do on the weekend, feel free to take the photo I have at the top of this post and use it to create an instant email party invitation. And please, share your experiences and ideas for how to celebrate summer, Aperol spritz style!
Pour prosecco and Aperol (3 to 1 proportions) into a glass of ice. Stir, add a splash of soda water if desired. Drop in a thin slice of orange.