Battle Aperitivo: Peychaud’s Aperitivo vs. Aperol

Peychaud Aperitivo

Peychauds Aperitivo Aperol

The other day, the fine folks at Sazerac Company sent me a bottle of the new Peychaud’s Aperitivo (hitting shelves this spring). Like many cocktail enthusiasts, I dig Peychaud’s bitters, especially for making Sazeracs, and I also dig Italian aperitivi like Aperol and Campari. So this new offering certainly intrigued me. Sazerac sent along a press release that was surprisingly light on details, other than stating that their new product was made with “quality, simplicity and mixability¬†in mind.” It also noted that the Peychaud’s Aperitivo is 22 proof, which happens to be the same as Aperol (Campari clocks in at a much more robust 48 proof). The color of Peychaud’s Aperitivo in the bottle also happens to be¬†a dead ringer for Aperol. So I started asking around as to the provenance of Peychaud’s,¬†wondering how similar the two might be.

Sazerac’s rep replied to my questions by stating that¬†their¬†“recipe and production are kept proprietary.” Their bottle, though, at least confirmed – “Product of¬†Italy” – so we at least know that much. The two biggest Italian aperitivo producers that could possibly be working with Peychaud’s are Campari and Luxardo.¬†Luxardo, whose aperitivo also rings in at 22 proof but sports a much brighter Jolly Rancher cherry red color, quickly¬†replied to my question on if they were making it, stating “It‚Äôs definitely not us. :).”¬†I also asked Campari USA (who markets both Campari and Aperol), but got no response (update: Campari responded saying that they do not make the Peychaud’s). So, no telling who the actual producer is.

Peychaud Aperitivo Aperol

Before I opened the bottle, I had the inevitable thought…¬†could it be that Peychaud’s Aperitivo is really just Aperol in a different bottle with a different label? More importantly, I suppose – would it really matter?¬†It’s safe to say there are vodkas, whiskey, and tequilas out there that are the same juice under different brands (tequila is a particularly interesting story – since every bottle is labeled with a code indicating which of the 139 legal¬†distilleries produced the tequila, and since there are roughly ten brands for every single tequila distillery out there). I have no beef with distilleries (or NDPs – non-distiller producers) sourcing product and marketing it – as long as they are honest¬†about what’s inside¬†(do a search for¬†Michter’s,¬†Templeton, and Whistle Pig as examples of a few whiskey brands that have gotten into some trouble on this front in the past couple years).

My suspicions were shot down, though, as soon as I poured out these two Italian beauties side by side (neat, room temperature). Once out of the bottle, the Aperol was clearly¬†a touch darker, one tiny step towards red and away from orange.¬†And smelling the two, there was an even more significant difference –¬†with the Peychaud’s carrying a substantially¬†sharper bitter/herbal base note, and the Aperol being more pleasantly fruity (citrus) and floral. Sipping¬†them side by side, the Aperol is more lush on the tongue, with a nice viscosity. The Peychaud’s, meanwhile, is somewhat thinner, with a shorter (though still substantial) finish. If you want a more assertive profile that starts to move in the direction of Campari, the Peychaud’s will float your boat – but Aperol is generally more balanced and harmonious, more easy-drinking.

Over ice, it’s a similar story, though the ice brings out the sweetness in the Aperol. In a spritz (with club soda and/or sparkling wine), the distinctions are understandably harder to pinpoint, but the conclusion remains the same – if you’re after a pleasant walk through Italian¬†orange groves, go with the Aperol; and if you want a (mild) slap in the face to wake you up a bit, go for the Peychaud’s. Peychaud’s Aperitivo should be hitting shelves this spring, and is priced similarly to Aperol, around $20.

I should point out – the Peychaud’s Aperitivo is nothing like the complex spice bomb that their bitters provide. Sure, there¬†are¬†cinnamon and clove notes in there, but those are¬†a minor note¬†in the Aperitivo rather than the booming crash that the bitters provide (speaking of which, make yourself a Bitter Southerner¬†No. 2¬†for an amazing use of Peychaud’s Bitters).

I appreciate that Peychaud’s want to keep an air of mystery about their new product, but I’d still love to know who is making this stuff, or at least a bit more on the formula. And if indeed it is the same folks behind Aperol or Casoni that are making this, I’d love to know a few hints as to how their formulations differ. Is that too much to ask? Maybe so. I’ll just go back to my spritzes and Americanos and Negronis and try not think too hard about what’s in the glass.

Peychaud Aperitivo

Cocktails: Apple Season in a Glass

Summer is still hanging on with a vengeance, sunny hot days melting into cool September nights. Despite the heat, autumn is around the corner, and apple season is already here. Just head up to North Georgia and the apple trees are bountiful with fruit. In honor of cooler days to come and the heavenly aroma of apple pies inundating the air in lucky kitchens, we bring you a simple cocktail recipe sure to elicit mental visions of such glory: Apple Season in a Glass.

Apple Season in a Glass

The key ingredient here is Travis Hasse’s Apple Pie liqueur. An inexpensive (though still hard to find in the South) bottle of liqueur built on apples, spices and neutral grain spirits. On its own, it’s sweet, sticky, and almost impossibly true to the aroma and flavor of apple pie. It’s like taking a pie in the face, and it begs for balance. A nice rye (or bourbon, to each his own) will do just the trick. We like Russell’s Reserve Rye (6 year old) as a nice cocktail mixer. It brings a nice toastiness and slight bitterness to the table. A dash of Peychaud’s bitters adds a touch of aromatic complexity, again balancing out the sweetness of the liqueur. There are certainly more complex and challenging recipes that will get you a similar taste of apple season, but this is a nice and easy way to help your mind escape the lingering summer heat and swing into Fall.

1.5 oz rye whiskey
1 oz Travis Hasse’s Apple Pie Liqueur
Peychaud’s bitters to taste

Shake and strain into an old-fashioned glass half-filled with broken ice.

Adding cinnamon or nutmeg will be overkill on top of the liqueur, though a cinnamon stick would be a nice visual touch.