The Alembic's Littlest Rebel is a sure-fire way to liberate your tastebuds. (Courtesy @ alembicsf)

Bay Area bar stars refresh the controversial Aperol spritz

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The Aperol Spritz—that apparently unassuming, low-ABV sipper that's an imperative part of summertime life on Italy's Lake Como—recently fell victim to a New York Times smackdown. Writer Rebekah Peppler described the "Instagram-friendly aperitif" as being "like a Capri Sun after soccer practice on a hot day. Not in a good way."

While those of us with a true disdain for over-sweet prosecco (a key ingredient in the iconic spritz) raised an instant proverbial toast to Peppler, the internet went cray, with many a reader and bartender coming to the spritz's defense. We knew San Francisco mixologists would have something to say about all this (The Alembic went so far as to host a class on spritzes this week), so we checked in with a handful of local bar stars who've throw their thoughts and recipes into the mix.


Let's make Aperol spritzes great again.

Aperol Spritz, by Nicky Beyries of Foreign Cinema and Laszlo

Bar master Nicky Beyries added her twist on the classic drink to Foreign Cinema's brunch menu's the very day after the NYT piece was published. "We love spritzes here," she says, "and when the weather is nice, I usually have a whole menu section featuring different spritzes."

"Our house version is done with a fairly traditional build," she says, "with Aperol, sparkling rose from the Loire valley, seltzer, and a long grapefruit twist," rather than ubiquitous orange slice. The key here? A bit of bitterness from the grapefruit to balance the sweetness of the Aperol, plus a quality sparkling rose as opposed to sugary prosecco. Beyries serves it in a stemless wine glass on crushed ice.

Beyries also points out that a spritz is "perfect for our patios, both in Foreign Cinema and Laszlo whether for brunch or evening al fresco dining." // 2526 Mission St. (Mission), laszlobar.com

The Littlest Rebel, Mikha Diaz and  Kathryn Kulczyk of The Alembic

In Haight-Ashbury, The Alembic is synonymous with inventive, handcrafted cocktails, and occasionally hosts classes for hobbyist mixologists. This past Monday, the bar picked up on the trending cocktail and put on a class where guests learned to make four different version of the drink.

Beverage directors Mikha Diaz's and Kathryn Kulczyk favorite spin on the cult-classic is called The Littlest Rebel, which combines the fruitiness of house cherry grenadine with refreshing Lillet Rose, bitter and vegetal Gran Classico, and yeasty brut sparkling wine. "It's one of our favorite takes on the Aperol Spritz, and is among the most popular drinks here," Diaz says. "The cocktail, too, gets a final kick from black pepper tincture that gives it some bite."

This liberated libation is available during weekend brunch (11am to 4pm), and pairs nicely with The Alembic's signature Scotch egg. // 1725 Haight St. (Haight-Ashbury), alembicsf.com

Backyard SpritzMeyer, by Nicolas Torres of True Laurel

Nicolas Torres—the creative mastermind behind the mind-boggling drinks at True Laurel—not only made the mai tai into an Instagram-worthy experience, but is now serving up a sublime spritzer.

His Backyard SpritzMeyer is "a pretty simple preparation with cinnamon cordial, Feijoa eau de vie, and pet-nat."

The kicker ingredient? "We get our Meyer lemon from local farms and friends' backyard trees," he says. // 753 Alabama St. (Mission), truelaurelsf.com

Red Medicine, by Matt Gripp and Andrew O’Neil of Blackbird

At Blackbird, Matt Gripp and fellow bartender Andrew O'Neil are riffing on the drink in his Red Medicine, "and it is hands down our best selling cocktail," Gripp says. So what's in it? Aperol, gin, lemon, ginger, Amaro, and sparkling rose. It's served in a wine glass "with a big ole orange twist."

Still prefer the classic? Look for Blackbird to add an OG Aperol Spritz to the happy hour menu later this May. Gripp recommends asking for a Castelvetrano olive for a salty-sweet-bitter-bubbly balance. // 2124 Market St. (Lower Haight), blackbirdbar.com

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