Campari’s cocktail is booming
Credit: The Washington Post/Getty Images

The first time I tried an Aperol Spritz, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew it featured Italian liqueur, and that it looked like a bright, refreshing beverage. As someone who isn’t much of a wine fan, I probably should’ve stopped to realize that prosecco was involved before diving in. But who could blame me? I’d simply gotten swept up in the growing belief that the Aperol Spritz synonymous with summer drinking.

You don’t have to look far for evidence that the sunshiny-orange cocktail is everywhere these days. That’s thanks to a marketing push on the part of Campari, the maker of Aperol, who wants Millennials (and even a growing number of Gen-Z drinkers turning 21) to see its citrusy cocktail as the must-have accessory for any aspiring social media influencer. On the east coast, that’s meant having a pop-up presence at music festivals and establishing a beachhead out in the Hamptons, where Campari turned a scooter into a movable bar that doled out free spritzes.

That push has paid off, as Aperol Spritzes have netted Campari lots of green while turning bars and brunch spots (some of which now even offer the cocktail on tap) orange. Nielsen data suggests an Aperol sales list of 48 percent since last summer, not bad for a liqueur that’ll celebrate its 100th birthday in 2019.

Beyond its Instagrammable aesthetic qualities, Campari credits the Aperol Spritz’s success to an ongoing shift in consumer tastes and attitudes, especially among younger drinkers. The rhubarb-based liqueur seems to align with an increasing desire for more bitter liqueurs, and Aperol’s lower alcohol by volume (11%) makes it well-suited for functional day drinking. “It plays into trends,” said Campari VP of marketing Melanie Batchelor. “ Americans are starting to appreciate more bitter tastes and they want more drinks that are low in alcohol content."

Whether the Aperol Spritz is at the right place or the right time to satisfy a demand or we’ve been subconsciously swayed into sucking them down, there’s no doubt this cocktail is more visible than ever. Will it supplant rose (or frose) as the official summer beverage of anyone thirsty for light booze and more Instagram followers? Time will tell. But in the meantime, don’t be surprised if the next debaucherous pool party you swaps out “summer water” for a drink representing a different shade of a summer sunset.