I nearly spit out my pitch black coffee last Friday morning when I read in one of my favorite newsletters (Girls’ Night In) that the Aperol Spritz is “the new drink of the summer.” Wait. The Aperol Spritz is not “new.” It’s an Italian classic. A staple of summer. My first thought was, “Where did they get this!?”
Apparently, the newsletter editors got it from the New York Times, which they linked to as well as a recipe from Bon Appetit, which describes the fizzy drink as “starting the whole spritz phenomenon in the United States.”
For those who are still not aware of the Aperol Spritz, it is a wine-based cocktail with origins in Northeast Italy. It is traditionally served as an aperitif (an early evening drink) and is comprised of prosecco, soda water, and Aperol, an Italian bitter rhubarb liqueur.
Now, those who read the NYT feature from earlier in July will immediately realize that the story is not trying to pass off or lean into the suggestion that the Aperol Spritz is suddenly a new hot (but, of course, cool) commodity. Rather, the newfound fervor for the Aperol Spritz—at least in the United States—has similar roots to that of the mass popularization of rosé a few years back, making the jump from Provençal varietal to a must-have for young startup founders partying in the Hamptons. It all comes down to marketing.
Campari, the parent company behind Aperol, basically confirmed as much to the Times, describing the wine-based cocktail is gaining ground with—who else—millennials in summer hotspots from Palm Springs to the aforementioned epicenter of the rosé craze in America on the shores of Long Island. (It doesn’t hurt that the blood orange beverage “Instagrams” well, either.)
But Campari already has more to show for it than more likes and hashtags on Instagram, proving that pulling from the rosé wine marketing handbook is working. On its first quarter earnings report earlier this year, the spirits conglomerate credited Aperol (along with its namesake liqueur) for making up for declines experienced by Skyy Vodka, among a few of its other brands.
Campari also clearly didn’t wait for summer to roll around either, planting seeds as far back as last fall with colorful pop-up stands at choice locations in well-photographed and moneyed locales like Art Basel in Miami Beach, waiting for the fruit to grow and be plucked this season. That resulted in double-digit growth for Aperol sales before summer even started.
So while the drink itself—dating back decades—is certainly not new, many buyers are clearly unaware and, frankly, don’t care. The light, carefree, colorful marketing campaign has successfully reached them, slowly lulling them with the low-alcoholic beverage that is both eye-appealing and refreshing in scorching heat. And with summer only midway through, shareholders will likely be very excited to see what Campari will deliver on its next report in August.
Probably much to those shareholders’ delights, there appears to be no cap on interest or shortage of headlines about the Aperol Spritz, which Lifehacker described for American readers as “a grown up orange soda.” On Monday, CNNMoney described the Aperol Spritz as a “hipster cocktail.” But the only people who might really be hipsters in this scenario aren’t just millennials lumped together, but cocktail lovers across generations who will inevitably say, “Wait, I’ve been drinking that for years before it was popular.”