Bottling holiday spirit

Why do drinks taste better on holiday?


Holiday drinks taste better. Who hasn’t lugged a bottle of local liquor home, hoping its foreign brightness would pierce a grey homebound evening only to discover disappointment in every sip? Millions of banished bottles languishing in the back of a cupboard! Don’t think about glugging it down the drain; you paid to put a bag in the hold just to bring it home, for goodness sake, best to tuck it behind the Christmas Baileys. Yet every time it peeks out, maybe when you’re rummaging for some other lost liqueur for an obscure dessert, there it is, reminding you you’re no longer on holiday and that once, it really did taste delicious.

This is my feeling about Aperol, a drink that is never quite as tasty at home. For me, it specifically conjures a hot and sticky summer visit to Palermo with my sister. We planned to drive around the island, discovering secret spots filled with delicious wine, on the hunt for the best caponata, but I baulked after just one day of car rental. I simply wasn’t cut out for the intense motorsport that is driving in Sicily, where wing mirrors hang from car doors like jangly earrings, and every intersection is a battle of wills. Hertz got the car back early, and we spent our holiday in the city taking excursions along the coast by train, which has an upside: no longer a designated driver, I could enjoy drinking a bit more. 

Sicily swelters in summer. I had been warned that it can get warm, but what would I know of heat? My Irish understanding of island life has been whipped into existence by bitter on-shore breezes and salty Atlantic swells. A volcanic island blanketed in thick, oppressive humidity was something new to me; I now understood how chickens feel in an oven.

And this is when Aperol Spritz came to my rescue. “Ooh!” my sister cooed, “This one’s only €2.50”. It didn’t seem to matter if we paid a couple of euro or almost a tenner; it was the Goldilocks of drinks: not too bitter, not too sweet, not too alcoholic and always ice cold. Perfect for a blistering vacation, and if you ordered it at the right time of day, it came with snacks!

Searching for that same holiday flavour at home, I’ve come close, but it’s not the same. Holiday drinks taste of the places we drink them. They mingle with the air that envelops where we are, embodying the very feeling of being away. My sister makes the best home attempt — good spumante prosecco makes all the difference — but it’s not quite the antidote to sweltering Sicilianesque heat that I remember. 

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