Some people like to browse the bookstore after a dinner out- that’s what John & our son wanted to do after dinner last night. I’d rather browse a liquor store.  It’s kind of similar, really…especially if you’re in my favorite aisle, “Liqueurs and Apertifs.” Each bottle, like a book, has a story to be told- wars between families, secret recipes, descents into madness, prohibition-thwarting underground tunnels. The best part about these stories though, is that you get to add your own chapter. Luckily there is a liquor store right next to the book store.

All of my usual friends were there to greet me- Pimm’s, Lillet, and of course Campari.  One bottle jumped out at me however.  I’d always wanted to try Aperol.  Aperol is Campari’s sweeter, gentler cousin.  It’s flavors of bitter orange, rhubarb, gentian root and cinchona bark definitely present a similar flavor profile to that of Campari.  Aperol though is lighter, sweeter, and much more orangey.  It would be great in the summertime by itself over ice but mixes well with vodka, gin and prosecco.

I’m sure I’ll spend some time experimenting with Aperol and various other liquors, but for now I wanted to find a basic Aperol cocktail- something that showcases the bitter orange flavor and -quite honestly- gives a little bump to the meager 11% alcohol content.  There are many Aperol cocktail recipes out there, most consisting of either Vodka or Gin, lemon juice, sugar, and perhaps some bitters.  When faced with the choice of Vodka or Gin, I always choose Gin, so here is tweaked version of several recipes I found.  If you still haven’t made friends with Gin, don’t worry.  It adds a nice botanical flavor to the drink, but doesn’t give you the overwhelming pine flavor you remember from the cheap-ass Gilbey’s you drank in college.  Enjoy!

Aperol Cocktail

1.5 oz Gin (please, not Gilbey’s…Hendrick’s, Bombay Sapphire will do), 1.5 oz Aperol, 1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice, .25 oz (or just a dash) simple syrup, a couple drops Angostura Bitters

Shake ingredients over ice, strain, garnish with orange peel.  For more drama and nuance, garnish with a flamed orange peel.