Aperol seems everywhere all of a sudden, and its cousin Campari is also enjoying a new popularity. Frank’s Campari Bar opened in 2009: a seasonal, cash-only cafe on the roof of a car park in Peckham, south London. Its food isn’t great, and it caters mainly for hipsters with dubious facial hair, but it sold / sells cheap Campari cocktails with a nice view.
The first Polpo restaurant now has a Campari bar downstairs, and the Aperol bar at its Covent Garden outpost launched a couple of weeks ago. I went home to Edinburgh last weekend, and discovered George Street (one of the main shopping drags) to be currently given over to a vast tent heftily promoting Aperol spritzes at around four quid a pop. These red Italian drinks are enjoying a new moment of fame.
None of this remotely matters, of course, but I’m still intrigued as to why they should suddenly have become so popular. It may be simply that they’ve been rediscovered by another generation – they went out of fashion, and like many things they came back – although I expect the marketing departments of Gruppo Campari, which owns both the drinks, may have something to do with it.
Whatever: they’re both delicious. Two brothers named Barberi launched Aperol in 1919. The bitter concoction, which is flavoured with rhubarb, sour orange, gentian and something called cinchona, was originally targeted at “active men”, although since the 1930s it’s been seen as something of a girly drink. Aperol is only 11% ABV to Campari’s 25%: many Italians, particularly in the north, rather rigidly segregate the drinks between sexes. The Aperol spritz emerged in the 1950s: a slug of Aperol, a slosh of prosecco and a top-up of soda water. The “cocktail” is only 8%, and a perfect way to begin an evening if you don’t want to get plastered.