The campaign for aperitivos

Call it cinq a sept, or the cocktail hour – it’s the perfect time to have an aperitivo, Italian for drinks after work. It’s the time to shift gears, by marking the end of work and the start of the evening. The ideal drink to have is an aperitivo, lighter in alcohol, often with a bit of sparkle.

Sure, a rye and coke or a Caesar could suffice. But why not have a drink especially built for this purpose? Aromatised wines were first developed in northern Italy. Distillation, followed by the infusion of herbs, spices and fruit created an entirely new category of drinks and a brand new way of looking at the afterwork drink.

They were sweet and bitter, a combination to make the taste buds sing. Now, we can enjoy St Germain, naturally flavoured with eldeflower, the slightly sweet/slightly bitter orange-based Aperol and the classic Campari.

Let’s start a campaign, a campaign for aperitivos. Start by trying one of these delicious aperitivos.


Campari the ultra-bitter, garishly red coloured, medicinal drink is an acquired taste — for some. Others, like yours truly, hunt it down across the city. Why? It’s so refreshing! Mixing with citrus, especially grapefruit, takes the edge off the medicinal bitterness mellowing the spirit.

The February

My favourite Campari aperitivo is also the simplest. It’s a tonic in early spring when the luscious Texas ruby grapefruits hit the market — but as long as you can find good fresh grapefruit, keep on making this deliciously refreshing drink. Look for large, heavy grapefruits — heavy being the operative word — they are the juiciest.

  • 1 juicy, ruby red grapefruit
  • ½ c Campari

Juice the grapefruit, breaking the pulp into small pieces. Pour juice, and pulp, over rocks glass filled with ice. Add Campari and stir.

Makes two drinks.

Roman Dawn

Campari with crushed tangerines, cane sugar and raspberries. By Joe Badali.

  • 1½ oz Campari
  • 1 whole, small tangerine chopped
  • 7 raspberries
  • ½ oz cane syrup

Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and muddle. Fill the shaker with ice and add Campari. Shake and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a tangerine slice.


Aperol is made from the infusion of over 30 aromatic herbs, sweet orange peel and spices. Sweeter and slightly less bitter than its companion Campari, it too marries well with citrus, particularly mandarin or tangerine. It’s also fairly low in alcohol (11 per cent) which makes it a wise choice before dinner. We fell in love with Aperol on a recent trip to the Veneto where Aperol Spritz were as ubiquitous as Vespa scooters.

Aperol Spritz

  • 1½ oz Aperol
  • 2 oz Ruggieri Prosecco (or any good quality sparkling wine)
  • splash soda

In a rocks glass or wine glass filled with ice, slowly pour the prosecco followed by the Aperol and soda. Carve a large piece of orange rind over and twist while dropping into the glass to release the flavourful oils. Follow with a slice of orange, if desired.

Nicli Negroni

Nicli Antica, a newish pizzeria in Vancouver’s Gastown, not only makes deliciously authentic Napoli pizza, but they have also created a smart cocktail list — seasonal, modern, filled with unique drinks and clever variations on the theme.

Their version of a Negroni (the classic is gin, red vermouth and Campari in equal measure) uses Campari, Aperol and an artisan vermouth. Carpano Antica Formula, which came in what looked like a brown apothecary bottle, added an earthy chinotto-type note to the drink. We’ve replaced the not-able-to-buy-in-Alberta vermouth with Nardini Amaro and it’s a fine substitution, if we say so ourselves.

  • 1 part Aperol
  • 1 part Campari
  • 1 part Plymouth gin
  • 1 part Nardini Amaro
  • orange twist

Build over ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with a thick slice of fresh orange.

St. Germain

St. Germain is flavoured with hand-picked elderflower which gives it a mysterious flavour; slightly citrus, pear and spice, somewhat undefineable. Try it on the rocks or as an aperitif.

The classic aperitif is prosecco or champagne and St. Germain with a splash of soda. It’s also delicious when it plays a herbaceous supporting role, such as in a gin and tonic or a mojito.

St. Germain Mojito

  • 2 parts white rum
  • 1 part St. Germain
  • 1 part fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 10 fresh mint leaves
  • club soda (optional)

Muddle mint in a tall Collins glass. Add other ingredients. Half fill with crushed ice and stir; fill to brim with more crushed ice and stir again.

Elderflower Blossom

  • 3 parts Belvoir Elderflower Cordial
  • 1 part St. Germain
  • lime zest

Pour Belvoir Elderflower slowly over ice in a pretty glass, add St. Germain and stir gently. Squeeze lime zest over and drop into the glass. Variation: use Belvoir Raspberry Lemonade instead of Elderflower Cordial.

Moonlit Martini

Tarquin Melnyk at The Manor Café is an inventive mixologist. He calls the Moonlit Martini a combined creative effort between himself and one of their servers, Clara Song.

  • 1 part Aqua Luca Cachaca
  • 1 part St. Germain
  • 1 part hibiscus simple syrup (Tarquin purchases the hibiscus flower dry and boils it in the sugar syrup for a 1/2 hour for the desired flavour and colour desired — a stunning red glow)
  • Juice of 1/2 lime

Shake then double strain through a tea strainer to remove pulp, impurities and ice bits.

Garnish with candied hibiscus flower, which is a pleasant by-product of making the simple syrup. Bake the sugar-drenched flower in the oven to dry it out after making syrup. Finally, add three drops of orange bitters to the drink and serve. Aperol can be used if you don’t have a concentrated orange bitter.