Toronto’s new aperitivo
As the popularity of bitter Italian liqueurs spikes, drinks like the Negroni and the spritz are inching toward commonplace.
Campari, along with its tamer relative Aperol, have monopolized the aperitivo category in many international markets, including ours. Though Campari is god to many, bitter-lovers and fiendish mixologists alike are constantly on the hunt for something new.
In Italy, vermillion aperitivi come slapped with all sorts of labels, many of them produced from century-old proprietary recipes. Families like the Cappelletti of Trentino have been producing grappe, amari and aperitivi since 1909.
The small, family-run operation lacks the resources to market all of its brands on a global scale, so when Joel Clarke, president of Toronto boutique wine and spirits agency Henderik & Co., connected with the Cappellettis first online and then at Pro Wein and Vinitaly (huge annual trade shows in Germany and Italy) last year, he sprung at a (bitter)sweet opportunity.
After months of tasting and tweaking an existing Cappelletti brand called Gino (I could not make that up if I tried), Clarke along with Henderik & Co. sales director Cassandra Mosher and Owen Walker, bar manager at Bar Isabel (797 College, 416-532-2222, barisabel.com), had a product they could stand behind.
And so Capo Capo, a Trentino-Toronto hybrid, was born.
Clocking in at 16% ABV, Capo Capo (available soon through private order via Henderik & Co.) is softer than Campari but with more bitterness and depth than Aperol. It’s a brilliant red blend of roots and botanicals like rhubarb, bitter orange, gentian, wormwood and angelica, plump on the palate but not even close to cloying.
“It can alter a drink that calls for Campari in a way that’s more approachable for someone who doesn’t have the palate for bitter, or it can work as a replacement for Aperol,” Walker says.
It plays well with most spirits and is dynamite in a mutant mimosa with fresh grapefruit juice and cava, Walker explains. Or appreciate it pared down with a splash of soda and a grapefruit twist.
Basically, it’s superaperitivo.