Two Mediterranean Coolers: Aperol Spritz and Diabolo
I was introduced to these refreshing drinks on two different memorable trips to seaside towns in Italy and France. The habit of both the French and the Italians to enjoy a snack and a drink on a fine late afternoon, preferably outside under an umbrella, became an eagerly anticipated part of my travel routine. Sipping an iced drink and watching the passersby is a lovely way to wind down from a busy day of touring.
I first discovered the perfection of apertivo and Aperol Spritz at the midpoint of a hike in the Cinque Terre on the Ligurian Coast in Italy. We were ready to rest and relax a bit during our hike through the breathtaking hills when we arrived in Corniglia, a town that sits at the top of about 400 steps, and there, a little restaurant, complete with a terrace and tables with umbrellas, appeared like an oasis. We inquired about the lovely sunny orange drinks we saw on many tables and were told they were Aperol Spritz. We ordered two and were instantly enamored of the perfect bitter-sweet orange flavor of the digestif brightened with the barely perceptible fizz of prosecco, a dry Italian sparkling wine — and it was served on ice; joy! Not too long after that day in 2009, Aperol became widely available in the United States. For that I am grateful because the memory of that sunny day in Italy is one I now relive on a regular basis with the first sip.
I made the acquaintance of the non-alcoholic Diabolo on a bright spring day in the scruffy and lively city of Marseilles in southern France. My friend Stephanie and I were touring the sights and while strolling through the Parc Borély, Marseilles’ magnificent city park, we decided le picnique would be just the thing. I was amazed to be able to order crepes with a luscious ham and cheese filling served with a little salad at a canteen in the park. Stephanie was having a Diabolo, a drink I’d never heard of, but which I immediately ordered because my friends in France know a thing or two about good food and drink. I very much liked the fizzy concoction, which I thought I had recalled had been mixed with fig syrup. While researching for this piece, I talked with my friend who thought it was cassis (black currant) syrup we had that day. I’ve seen reference to grenadine (pomegranate) and menthe (mint) syrup versions, too. Since fig syrup is impossible to find in my neck of the woods and even unavailable on Amazon (how often does that happen?), cassis it will be.
First published June 2014