This low-alcohol cocktail just might be the new drink of summer in Austin

7:47 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017 Drinks
Photo by Justin Rouhier. Juliet Italian Kitchen offers three Aperol cocktails, including its version of the Aperol Spritz with sparkling rose.

The Aperol Spritz is the de facto mixed drink of choice in Italy — a fizzy aperitif (a light, dry alcoholic beverage to whet the appetite for dinner) with a reddish orange liqueur as the star ingredient. Now, it’s increasingly become the cocktail to enjoy in the U.S., too.

I remember sipping two Aperol Spritzes on a breezy afternoon at the rooftop bar of Florence’s Plaza Hotel Lucchesi, where my new husband and I were staying during our European honeymoon this spring. The view of one of Italy’s most beautiful cities, coupled with the bright, slightly bitter potion piled with ice in a wine glass, was a hallmark of our trip.

When I returned, Aperol Spritzes suddenly seemed to be everywhere. Was I noticing it so much simply because I was wishing to be back on that Italian rooftop, drinking one while admiring the bird’s eye view of Florentine landmarks? Or had it become a thing here, too?

Once Austin Monthly published a piece last month declaring that frosé was so last year and the Aperol Spritz had taken the frozen cocktail’s place, I concluded that it did indeed seem to be a new trend — one incredibly gratifying to see. The Aperol Spritz, typically made with Aperol, soda and prosecco (Italian sparkling wine), is low in alcohol and high in refreshing qualities, perfect for these last dragging days of summer.

(But hey, frosé is still a good summertime beverage, too.)

Here are some places around town where you can find a quintessential Aperol Spritz.

Italic, 123 W. Sixth St. The Italian restaurant from the ELM Restaurant Group (24 Diner, Easy Tiger) stays authentic with its drinks menu, from its all-Italian wine list to cocktails with aperitif-friendly ingredients. That extends to the Aperol Spritz, which Italic opened with in 2015 and is available for $5 during weekday happy hour from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. 

Photo by Vanessa Escobedo Barba. The Aperol Spritz is on special during downtown Italian restaurant Italic's extended happy hour.

Juliet Italian Kitchen, 1500 Barton Springs Rd. When Juliet reopened after a brief hiatus to revamp the restaurant’s concept and design, you can bet the Aperol Spritz remained on the menu. Is there anything better to drink on that picturesque patio during KUTX’s Wednesday night Live Jazz Series? Doubtful.

In fact, because the cocktail has blown up so much, Executive Chef Jacob Weaver and his staff teamed up with Aperol for extended happy hour on certain Wednesdays from 7 to 9 p.m., highlighting the traditional Aperol Spritz, Juliet’s version with sparkling rosé, and an Italian Sunrise with gin, Aperol, mandarin liqueur and lemon. The next one of these will be on Aug. 30.

Hillside Farmacy, 1209 E. 11th St. Italian restaurants aren’t the only local spots having fun with the fizz. Hillside Farmacy has a small menu of bubbly cocktails, including the Aperol Spritz, that are $2 off during 3 to 6 p.m. daily happy hour. 

Geraldine’s, 605 Davis St. The fourth-floor restaurant at Hotel Van Zandt has a full-blown Spritz & Giggles menu created by bar director Caitlyn Jackson, who took over after Jen Keyser left for the brunch all-day restaurant Holy Roller. She’s starting strong with four spritz drinks available, including the classic:

Geraldine's makes a variety of spritz cocktails with different base liqueurs, including the classic Aperol.

Gelateria Gemelli, 1009 E. Sixth St. This scoops shop doesn’t just serve gelato — after founder Andrew Sabola learned how to make the Italian frozen treat in Italy, he wanted to bring back another tradition: washing down the gelato with a cocktail like the $7 Aperol Spritz, with Aperol, prosecco, soda and orange.

Juniper, 2400 E. Cesar Chavez St. With esteemed bar veteran Justin Elliott as general manager here, the Italian restaurant’s cocktail program has only gotten better. As at Geraldine’s, there’s an entire Spritz menu offered (spritz, by the way, referring to the sparkling wine aspect of the drink). Notice that Juniper makes the Aperol Spritz with none other than Austin’s beloved Topo Chico.

It’s also worth noting that Juniper offers an entire carafe of Aperol Spritz (albeit with prosecco, not Topo) during brunch, when $20 will serve two to six people very necessary hair-of-the-dog. 

Red Ash Italia, 303 Colorado St.: Different name, same cocktail. The downtown Italian grill offers the Venetian Spritz (Aperol, soda, prosecco) that you can get $2 off during happy hour from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. While you’re at it, you might as well order a Negroni Slushy. The best kind of slushy is a boozy one.

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