How Instagram-friendly Aperol spritz became the drink of the summer

Move over, rosé; take a break, prosecco. Aperol is having its moment in the sun this summer. Everyone from Vogue to GQ has hailed the Aperol spritz as the drink of the summer.

The cocktail has for decades been popular in Germany and Italy as a light before-dinner cocktail and has made its way to America. Typically made with Aperol, sparkling wine, oranges and club soda, the spritz is big this year. Why now? Well, besides being delicious and refreshing, the Aperol spritz is also highly Instagrammable. Orange and fizzy, it’s a cocktail that photographs “beautifully,” according to Dave Karraker, vp of engagement and advocacy at Campari America, the maker of Aperol.

“It’s a beautiful color, and when you’re in the sun, it makes for a nice picture,” he said. “A nice Chablis isn’t going to do that for you.”

That’s true: Chatter on social media has reached a five-year high this June, according to data pulled by agency Ralph & Co. Instagram drives most of that — Karraker said he’s talked to his reps at the platform to try and figure out, using their visual recognition tech, if Aperol spritzes may be the most Instagrammed drinks ever.

The brand has increased how much it is posting on its own Instagram channels — and has both ads and organic content focused on how pretty the drink looks for photos and GIFs. Karraker said organic social engagement has increased 300 percent since January — mostly driven by people tagging friends in the comments section asking them to check out the page. (Snapchat is out, said Karraker, citing that the platform isn’t quite there with its age filters and is, therefore, tough for alcohol brands.)

“It’s been the confluence of a few things. Summer and prosecco having a big moment as well,” said Karraker. Following on Instagram has gone up 300 percent since two years ago — the brand now has 18,500 followers on the spritz channel and another 14,000 on the Aperol USA channel.

In an effort to drive more Instagramming, Karraker’s team is also creating instructional GIFs on how to make an Aperol spritz the “right way” for maximum taste and beauty. (The club soda goes in last.)

No midweek blues here! Photo by @theelginw11. #AperolSpritz

A post shared by @aperolusa on

The brand is marketing Aperol for the first time ever in the U.S. this summer, according to Karraker. “It’s been bubbling over here a little bit, we noticed, so we decided to do it.”

Working with agency Mistress, Campari also created the “Aperol Brunch Society” and asked people to upload Instagram videos explaining why they should be the “chief brunch officer” — the title came with the option to go out for lots of brunches and drink, all on Campari’s dime. Engagement on Facebook tripled, and sales of Aperol increased 45 percent — the campaign got 200 million media impressions.

Sean Enright, a bartender and co-author of “Pittsburgh Drinks,” said he has tried to get people to drink Aperol spritzes for years, but it’s only this summer that people actively are asking for them, leading more bars and restaurants to put them on menus. “Someone orders one; a lot of people don’t know what it is, but it looks refreshing and delicious, so then someone else orders it,” he said. “A lot more bartenders now know what Aperol is, and so do people.”

The brand has also seen a rise in celebrities posting about the cocktail, from Madonna to Chelsea Handler. The drink is even featured in the opening of the second season of Netflix’s “Master of None,” where Aziz Ansari is seen making and drinking a spritz. The brand is also focusing heavily on New York and the Hamptons, with bus wraps, outdoor and the Ape Car, a little Italian scooter car that has been converted into a bar that’ll zip around the Hamptons offering spritzes.

“Beer and wine have played the part of an aperitivo here in the U.S.,” said Karraker. “But Aperol can get there — it’s pretty and it’s light. You’re not going to get completely bombed.”

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