When Dom Venegas packed his bags and made the cross-country journey from San Francisco to New York to help open The NoMad Bar (10 West 28th Street, 347-472-5660), he brought with him fifteen years of bartending experience — and a love for Aperol caipirinhas, or what he calls “the Guilty Pleasure.”
What started as a way to help make money during college became a love affair with wine and spirits, which ultimately led to creating craft-cocktail-focused bar programs for spots like The Winslow. When he was in San Francisco in 2001, Campari acquired SKYY Vodka, and the Italian company’s entire lineup, including Aperol, suddenly became available. Aperol is much lighter than Campari — its alcohol content is 11 percent — so Venegas used the aperitif as a base for a caipirinha one day during a brunch shift and found a drink he couldn’t forget. Sugar and fresh lime make the drink sweet and tangy; the addition of the bittersweet aperol helps keep the cocktail balanced. He began enjoying it so much that he dubbed it “The Guilty Pleasure,” and the drink gained a following after a while, popping up on menus at various spots throughout the Bay Area.
Now tasked with making some of New York City’s most intriguing drinks on a nightly basis, Venegas finds himself returning to simplicity, and going back to the Aperol caipirinha. “I remember when I hated the mojito…mostly hated because I had to make them,” he says. “I’ve come back to appreciate them.”
You won’t elicit a confused look if you order an Aperol caipirinha at Basik in Brooklyn or Gallagher’s in midtown.
Guilty Pleasure (Aperol caipirinha)
Cut a lime in half, and cut the half into quarters.
Place in a mixing glass and muddle lightly with 1/2 ounce of simple syrup.
Add 1/2 ounce of fresh lime juice and 2 ounces of Aperol.
Add ice and shake.
Dirty-dump it into a glass with ice to get that bitterness.
Venegas orders this drink when a bar doesn’t have Aperol on hand.
1/2 ounce demerara syrup
1/2 ounce water
2 dashes of orange bitters
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
2 ounces of El Dorado 15-year-old rum
Stir, garnish with an orange twist.
Sick of your usual call drink? Try something new. In this series, we’re asking the city’s bartenders to name their current drinks of choice.