Paula Nunes is a volunteer. Virtually every time I’ve run into her she’s been volunteering. To help a person, a business, a charity, a cause. Last week she was invited to a dinner party being held at Casa Don Day and again she volunteered. This time to help a very needy segment of society who, at approximately 5:00 pm each day, develop an uncontrollable thirst. Paula this time volunteered to bring to dinner an interesting aperitif. Much better than bringing another man I thought.
Now a lot of liquids have kissed my lips over the years. Martinis and Manhattans. Alexanders, Sidecars, Zombies and Collins. Death In the Afternoons. Black Velvets, White Russians, Pink Ladies and Yellow Birds. Between The Sheets and Sex On The Beach. Gimlets, Gibsons, Sours and Slings.
But I had never had an Aperol Spritz. Never had I tasted Aperol in any form.
I think I’d seen the bottle before. Sitting next to the Dubonnet and Campari bottles in the liquor store. The sunset orange color shoots it off the shelves. But no, never had it touched my tongue.
Now spritz is not my favorite word to see in the name of a cocktail. Because spritz usually means that the alcohol is weakened by fizzy water. It reminds me of a bar in Toronto called Wiley’s that once had a sign on the door saying “If you drink spritzers, may we suggest you drink elsewhere.”
But the Aperol Spritz uses alcohol to dilute the alcohol which may have helped it become the official drink of the Manchester United Football Club. Though I think a few million pounds was the primary reason. And I can’t quite imagine a Reds fan with big enough bollocks to walk out of Old Trafford, throw his scarf over his shoulder, and say to his cronies, “What’s say we head off to the pub and, instead of chuggin’ a couple o’ pints, we sip a few spritzes.”
There’s an official recipe for the spritz on the Aperol bottle. But Paula Nunes has the word bartender somewhere on her resume so, like any good bartender, she has modified the ingredients. Paula’s recipe uses Reunite Prosecco (“any will do” says Paula) instead of Cinzano (could the fact that Aperol is owned by Cinzano perhaps influence their choice of bubbly?). Paula refrigerates all of the ingredients so the ice becomes optional. She skips the slice of orange and, instead, gets the orange (and a little pomegranate) flavor from replacing the soda with San Pellegrino Melegrano e Arancia. As far as the ratio of ingredients are concerned, Paula says they should be “to taste” with, “Lots of bubbly, a dollop of Aperol, a healthy splash of the sparkling fruit flavored Pellegrino. It depends on if the drinker wants more tart or more sweet.”
So how do you describe the taste. Well there’s sweetness, bitterness and a little saltiness. There’s the taste of herbs, spices, orange peel and, perhaps, rhubarb. There are similarities with Campari and orange juice.
There are reminiscences to our friend Rosi of Kir Royale, the aperitif that combines Champagne with a blackcurrant liqueur.
Now my experience with welcome cocktails is that every guest takes one to be polite but hardly any guest ever has a second. I think almost every guest had a second of Paula Nunes’ Aperol Spritzes. I know I had a third.
And if the original function of an aperitif was to open and liven the palate, then it did its job. Chef Mark Tamiso’s stuffed pork loin tasted superb.
Paula Nunes purchases her Aperol and the other ingredients at La Comer, the supermarket in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.