I had the privilege of tasting newly released Aperol recently and I was quite pleasantly surprised. It being winter in Cape Town and deathly chilly up to our standards, I don’t usually go for cocktails. My knee-jerk reaction is to go for some bold red wine or a hot toddy but I was excited to test the Aperol.

I have always loved Campari and I have heard many people compare it to Aperol. I was sent a beautiful bottle of the syrupy red liquid and couldn’t wait to get into it. After a long day on my feet I decided it was the perfect excuse for cocktails at 4 in the evening.

First, I tasted the Aperol by itself and was surprised by how light it was. It has a very mineral taste and conjured up images of warm beaches. Instantly, I knew it would pair perfectly with citrus, having just gotten a bag of beautiful ripe oranges from the market, orange it would be. I wanted a herb to go along with it, something not too robust but decidedly savory so I chose thyme. The result, sublime. I made sure to infuse the thyme quite heavily so the orange wouldn’t be overpowering. The flavors married well and the Aperol was a perfect vehicle for the thyme and orange combo.

It’s just the kind of drink that can match well with most flavors while still shining on its own. It definitely reminds me of an Italian summer evening but went down just as well on my Cape Town-ian winter day! Here’s my Aperol inspired cocktail, indulge and make it yourself at home to enjoy after a long day or impress your friends at your next dinner party.

Aperol Spritz Orange and Smoked Thyme Cocktail Recipe Bottles and Glass

Orange and Smoked Thyme Aperol

The following makes two servings.

Ingredients

  • Zest and juice of 2 oranges
  • 100ml Aperol
  • 4 branches thyme (5g) plus more to garnish
  • Ice

What you’ll need

  • A cocktail shaker
  • A muddler/wooden spoon, and
  • A brûle torch or powerful lighter

Method

In a shaker combine the orange juice, zest, Aperol and two of the thyme branches. Add the ice and shake well. Before straining, muddle the liquid with a cocktail muddler or the back of a spoon to release some of the thyme flavor.

Fill two glasses with ice and strain the mixture into the glasses. With the two remaining thyme branches, put them on a plate and set them alight with a brûle torch then quickly put them into the drink glasses and cover with a plate to allow the smoked thyme to infuse with the mixture. Leave covered until all the smoke has evaporated, then garnish with fresh thyme and orange slices if desired.

Have your own ideas on Aperol inspired cocktails? Share your thoughts in the comments below!