Yesterday, The New York Times ran an absolutely incendiary piece of writing, one that’s tearing the internet apart, pitting friend against friend. It’s also giving a brand loads of free publicity, most of it good. I write, of course, of the great Aperol Spritz Wars of 2019.
The Times piece is a really strange takedown of a totally acceptable cocktail, which, if you’re unfamiliar, includes Aperol (an aperitif) and prosecco, with a little soda water and an orange slice, served over ice (roughly in a 3:2:1 ratio). If you like a little bitterness in your bubbly, summery cocktails, you’d probably like this one; if you don’t, you probably wouldn’t. The NYT chooses to dunk on a cocktail, and it’s this one? As my colleague Kate Bernot put it, this is like picking the quietest, most mild-mannered kid in class, standing on your desk, and shouting “That guy is an asshole!”
Rebekah Peppler’s objections are many. Aperol itself “skews saccharine;” the prosecco is “low-quality;” the glasses “jumbo” and “branded;” the orange slice “outsize.” Also, the ice melts! Quelle horreur! We will return to some of these points in a moment, but suffice it to say that she really does not care for this beverage, nor do some of the people she quotes.
Many others will—and have—written spirited defenses of this particular drink, but I’m not here to do that. I am here to tell you that it’s fine. Perfectly acceptable. Not gross. Not extraordinary. It’s an opinion shared, according to the Washington Post, by the author of the recent book Apéritif, one Rebekah Peppler. We agree with previous timeline Rebekah Peppler: It is a completely okay cocktail.
There are loads of drinks in this category—stuff that’s not mind-blowing, but not unbearable, either. It’s the kind of thing one passes on because it’s not for them, not because it’s disgusting. It’s too middle-of-the-road to be so objectionable. And so we at The Takeout are declaring it our passable drink of the summer. The Aperol Spritz: Just Okay!
That said, as is often the case, I have some questions.
- The opening lede of this sucker is so baffling to me that I seriously considered focusing in on it and only it: “It’s late spring, 6 p.m. Golden hour is nigh. It’s too late for lemonade, too early for whiskey — spritz time on the dot.” I’m sorry, too late for lemonade and too early for whiskey? Did Emily Post write about this and I missed it? Rest assured that it is never too late for lemonade, and only too early for whiskey if you think to yourself, “I do not yet feel like drinking whiskey.”
- Also, bourbon is really good in a Bloody Mary, so there’s that.
- I’m sorry, I’m still not over this. If 6 p.m. is both too late for lemonade and too early for whiskey, when in the everloving world are you supposed to drink whiskey lemonades?
- Peppler goes on to describe qualities she “can get behind”: “It’s effervescent, it’s extremely well iced and it is a shade of orange that rivals a ‘Planet Earth’ sunset.” Well iced?
- Well iced?
- What if it’s only kind of adequately iced?
- One of Peppler’s sources goes on to say that unless served immediately, “the ice melts and dilutes things so you get a watered-down version of something that’s not even the best expression of the drink.” So... not well iced?
- About the “branded, jumbo wine glasses”: You know you could just use another glass, right?
- About the “low-quality prosecco”: You know you could just use better prosecco, right?
- What is an outsize orange? Or is it the slice that’s too big? If the slice, you know you could just cut them smaller, right?
- The argument here would be that bartenders are making these mistakes, in which case that’s just a badly made cocktail, right? Not a bad one?
- Did no one ask any of these questions?
I have two closing thoughts. First, ultimately, Peppler is arguing that the spritz is a drink one can easily make at home; the default need not be Aperol, nor must it be made in a bar (where, presumably, they might have some jumbo branded wine glasses). That, I can support. But she closes the piece with this:
If you’re making them at home, know that spritzes are zero-intimidation cocktails — easy to make, easier still to drink. Forgo any tools besides the jigger; spritzes are built in the glass, and the garnish can do the mixing as it drops into the drink.
As we enter high spritz season, start with the following recipes, then make up your own. That’s the point isn’t it? To think, and drink, for yourself.
Isn’t that spirit contrary to the rest of her argument? If we’re meant “to think, and drink” for ourselves, then why write off this one aperitif in particular? I heartily concur that you like what you like, and you should experiment within the realm of what you like, creating your own new favorite recipes along the way. It’s why I own a bar cart, and why you should consider one, too. I can’t think of a worse way to make that argument than by beginning it with “That thing you like is actually garbage, xoxoxo.”
And last, there’s this line:
...the sugary apéritif is paired with low-quality prosecco, soda water and an outsize orange slice, resulting in something that drinks like a Capri Sun after soccer practice on a hot day. Not in a good way.
Emphasis mine. Two things: First, often our most memorable culinary experiences are enhanced by mood, physical state, location, and any number of external factors. Having consumed a Capri Sun after soccer practice on a hot day, I can tell you that it is a deeply satisfying experience, because it is hot, and you are at soccer practice, and it is a Capri Sun.
Second, there are only two bad ways to drink a Capri Sun: Warm, and through a hole you had to bite open because you lost the little straw.
Aperol spritzes for everyone who wants them, or not, whatever, it’s fine.