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This is the summer of the Aperol spritz. The orangey-red drink is suddenly on the menu at every hip restaurant and being drunk by 20-something women in trendy bars across America. It’s all over Instagram, perhaps being held up by a perfectly manicured hand in front of a city skyline. Everywhere you go, there it is: the Aperol spritz, summer 2018’s most viral drink trend.
And according to the New York Times, it’s all the product of a massive marketing campaign by Campari, the company that owns Aperol.
For longtime spritz lovers like myself, this news was a jarring wake-up call: No, I am not original in my enjoyment of the Aperol spritz — and neither are you. We have all unknowingly fallen prey to our corporate overlords, yet again.
Aperol is originally an Italian aperitif, and the Aperol spritz has long been a popular cocktail in Italy. In 2014, while on vacation in Rome, I tried my first Aperol spritz while sitting in a bar, watching impeccably dressed Italians pass by. I was hooked. The cocktail was crisp and refreshing: just the right mix of sweet and bitter, and best of all, low in alcohol content (containing just Prosecco, Aperol, and a splash of club soda). You could drink them for hours and never get drunk.
Campari America marketing executive Melanie Batchelor told the Times that the company embarked on a coordinated push to bring the Italian drink to the States a few years ago, with booths at popular New York City summer events such as the Jazz Age Lawn Party and Governors Ball, and a push at other hip locations as well as events in the Hamptons, Los Angeles, and Palm Springs. It certainly didn’t hurt that the drink’s bright color also made it Instagram-friendly — perfect for the influencer in search of #content.
It brings to mind the classic monologue delivered in The Devil Wears Prada by fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestley, played by Meryl Streep, dressing down her naive new assistant for thinking her blue sweater choice was original rather than chosen for her by the fashion industry:
That blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs, and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.
You’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. And you’re drinking a cocktail that was selected for you by a bunch of marketers in a boardroom at a brand.
For some, this might be enough to declare the Aperol spritz trend over. The drink has jumped the shark. It’s become mainstream, and therefore is no longer cool. For those of us who genuinely love the drink, we’re trained to feel bad for liking something that was foisted upon us by a brand-engineered marketing campaign. But what if something is both served to us by an advertising campaign and also … actually good?
Sometimes it’s okay to give yourself permission to enjoy something you like, even if it was engineered by a brand. Marketing aside, the Aperol spritz is objectively a delightful drink. It’s delicious, refreshing, and low-alcohol. If you enjoy it, it shouldn’t matter that it’s been the subject of a million Instagram posts or pushed on you by a brand.
Marketing isn’t always all bad. In fact, perhaps Campari’s very successful Aperol spritz marketing campaign shows us the best of what brand marketing has to offer: one of those rare occasions when it actually helps people find a genuinely good product that they enjoy.
So yeah, I don’t care if I’ve been a pawn in Campari America’s marketing game. I’m still going to down Aperol spritzes all summer long.