Aperol in Turin
“Don’t fuck with the alcohol.” This was no casual barman chit-chat. This was a passionate command.
After a day of piazza peeping in Turino, my fellow thrill-seekers and I had arrived at a bar and I had ordered an Aperol Spritz.
Not being a regular drinker of this orange medicinal mix, which includes hints of rhubarb, I was unable to competently respond to the question of whether or not I’d like soda in the drink. I was being informed that the real deal is to just add prosecco, hold the fizzy water.
The person who had enlightened me was Tony. He had slicked-back black hair, glasses, and an entrepreneurial enthusiasm that made the crumbling walls and lime-green interior appealing. Between taking orders, mixing drinks, serving food, and hustling for customers on the busy Piazza Vittorio Veneto outside, Tony was the life of the establishment.
“If you’re good, then I’m good. We are friends and friends should be happy!”
Tony was our guide on the apericena experience—the pre-dinner drinking and eating which makes total sense while you’re doing it, but hits hard when sitting down to dinner shortly after.
After a few sips of the bitter cocktail Tony emerged from the kitchen and placed a scarred frying pan on the table and firmly reminded our party of four to share. Inside the pan was a pile of gnocchi—thick, soft, doughy dumplings—with a soft tomato sauce. Then followed a smorgasbord of cold sausage, sheep cheese, vegetables dripping in oil, and cured meats.
The table heaved under the weight of the riches, and there was a distinct lack of time pressure. Chat away, nibble when necessary, and knock back the aperitifs. This is the Italian way, and Tony was our Italian/American/Colombian host, making us all feel we’d found a home.
Guests came and went as we worked our way through another round of drinks, and eventually the topic of desert arose. Before we had a real chance to consider a sweet section to our pre-dinner preamble, a decision was made for us and Tony arrived with profiteroles encased in a thick chocolate drizzle.
“You’re gonna wanna change off the Aperol for this one,” went Tony’s advice. “The Alexander goes real well with that cream.”
There’s no way this barman of brilliance could have known my name is Alexander, and the coincidence seemed too good to pass up, so I accepted his recommendation and soon enough, I was served my namesake.
Gin, white creme de cacao, light cream, and nutmeg was presented and Tony observed as I took the first sip. It complemented the profiteroles perfectly. Before I even expressed my satisfaction, he nodded his head gently in approval before shrugging his shoulders and surrendering the only rule in the bar once more: “Don’t fuck with the alcohol.”