Aperitivi – Italian Happy Hour
A Crash Course on Italian Bitters:
An Aperitivo Comparison
by Carrie Van Kempen
When the weather turns warm, Italian aperitivos make the perfect refreshing spring and summer drink. These liqueurs have an enduring popularity. Striking a balance between bitter and sweet, flavored with spices, herbs, and roots, and more. They have obvious appeal as an evening sip or to stimulate the appetite. Their complexity also lends itself to cocktails.
Rated from sweet to bitter, we will compare the nuances of these spirits readily available at Glorioso’s and other specialty liquor stores in Milwaukee.
Aperol Est. 1919, Padua
Most restrained bitter elements, pleasant orange flavors. A great introduction to Bitters. Light and refreshing scent with orange and herbal notes. The taste is obviously citrus orange, also with hints of rhubarb upfront, layered with somewhat woody and herbal undertones and a mildly bitter orange finish.
Rinomato Est. 2015, Asti
New to the American market! Rinomato is the creation of Vermouth producer Giancarlo Mancino. Great aromas and initial flavor of orange and vanilla. This aperitivo is full of bitter and sweet orange peel, rhubarb, roots and bark, balanced by a spicy, bitter, everlasting finish.
Aperitivo Cappelletti Est. 1909, Aldeno
Known to locals as just “Specialino”, may be the oldest style of the classic red bitter still in production. Unlike most of its contemporaries it is wine based vs. neutral spirit. Think of a sweet vermouth and Campari love child. Candied apple/caramel scent, warm spices and ripe aged orange with a gently bitter pine streak.
Contratto Est. 1933, Piedmont
With a broader range of botanicals and a brandy base Contratto’s bitterness is one step down from Campari. Great balance of sweet and bitter orange. Baking herbs of clove, cardamom, and sage are present and create a distinct bitter finish.
Campari Est. 1852, Milan
Campari is famous for its bittersweet taste—one marked by underlying flavors of cherry, cascarilla, clove, rhubarb, cinnamon and orange peel. The higher alcohol level helps the bitter to kick into gear and lengthens the herbal, rooty finish.
About Carrie: Riverwest native, animal collector, beverage manager at Glorioso’s, professional ruckus rouser. Adores alliteration.
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