This Gin Aperol cocktail is refreshing and delicious, and the color makes a stunning presentation. Using different kinds of gin along with rum, lemon juice and Aperol gives it a tangy but still complex flavor. The Aperol brings sweetness, along with some citrusy bitterness that goes perfectly with the gin botanicals.
I like to call this drink "Fade to Pink" because of its color variations. This drink is perfect for warm weather, although you could enjoy it any time of year! The presentation and colors make it perfect for a summer party or bridal shower. I also love this drink for Valentine's day (or Galentine's day!)!
The color for this cocktail comes from the Aperol and from Empress Gin, which is infused with butterfly pea flowers. Check out my Pink Gin Sour and Blackberry Empress Gin Sour for more cocktails that use Empress Gin.
This drink calls for a split base of both gin and white rum. This is a great combination if you are just starting to get into gin and want something that's a little more mellow in botanical flavor. It also uses two gins to float on top in layers. Although you don't have to use both types of gin for the float, I really love the gradient of color you can achieve this way!
Here are the ingredients I used for this drink:
- Aperol liqueur - This is considered an amaro, which means that it has some bitterness to it. This particular liqueur has a fairly low alcohol content and high sugar, so we don't have to add as much sugar syrup to this drink.
- Empress 1908 Gin - Empress gin comes in the bottle with a deep indigo color which comes from an infusion of butterfly pea flowers. When it is mixed with lemon juice or other acidic ingredient, it changes color to pink. The flavor is mostly juniper, although it has some citrus and light floral notes as well.
- White rum (I used Brugal Extra Dry) - I wanted to use a split base here because the rum adds a little bit of a sugar flavor without actually adding extra sweetness. It also helps with the color of the bottom part of the drink, since if you add too much of the Empress gin, it will go from pink to a more purple color.
- Bloody Shiraz gin by Four Pillars - This particular gin is infused with Shiraz wine grapes, giving it a beautiful burgundy color and a delicious grape flavor. As it ages, the gin acts like wine, getting more juicy and warm notes the longer it sits. This is just used for a float, but it adds a little bit of flavor as well.
- Lemon juice - freshly squeezed
- Simple syrup
- Mint sprig for garnish (optional)
If you don't have some of the ingredients, here are some things you could do to make substitutions:
- Aperol - this is a pretty key ingredient, since it has a distinctive flavor and orange color. If you don't have it, try substituting in Campari.
- Empress Gin - if you don't have Empress gin, you could try to find another gin brand that is infused with butterfly pea flowers. Or, you could make your own infusion with your favorite gin. Just get some dried butterfly pea flowers and cover them with gin in an airtight container. Let it sit for a day or two. Then, strain out the flowers and store the infused gin in a clean airtight container.
- White rum - you could substitute in vodka, or use a clear-colored gin if you like a stronger gin flavor.
- Bloody Shiraz gin - if you don't have this gin, try mixing half gin with half red wine. Or, you could try just using red wine for the float.
- Lemon juice - you could substitute lime juice instead of the lemon. Pink grapefruit juice would also work really well.
I love getting creative and putting different spins on cocktails! The big thing that sets this drink apart is its layers. Here are some ways to change up the look and flavor of this cocktail:
- Different colors - instead of using butterfly pea flowers to infuse gin, like explained in the Substitutions section, you could use a different colored flower or fruit to infuse and achieve different colors for your float. You could even mix in blue spirulina for a brightly colored blue float. See my Cerulean Sour drink for more info on blue spirulina.
- Add in a bottom layer - you can create another layer at the bottom of this drink by using a syrup, like grenadine. Add it in to the serving glass before you fill it with ice.
- Layered shots - instead of making this drink into a highball, distribute the mixed and shaken part of the drink equally among three shot glasses. Then, using the back of a bar spoon, carefully top each shot glass with the Bloody Shiraz gin and then the Empress gin. For a cleaner float, just use the Empress gin, since the two gins will tend to mix together on top.
To make this drink, you'll need some basic bar tools like a cocktail shaker, strainer and jigger, as well as a bar spoon or teaspoon to help you with the layering. If you have any pour spouts, they can also help with the layering because they give you a more controlled flow out of the bottle.
If you don't have access to crushed ice, you can crush your own using an ice mallet and Lewis bag. You could also use this ice crusher crank gadget, which is a little more expensive but works faster. Both are great options.
If you're new to home bartending or looking to upgrade your equipment, check out the awesome bar tool sets from A Bar Above. They're really great quality, and look great too. You can use my code LKDrinks for a 10% discount for anything on their website!
Creating a layered cocktail
The key to creating a layered cocktail is the density of the liquid. Syrups and liqueurs that have a lot of sugar dissolved in them will be denser and heavier than liquids with less sugar.
When you float alcohol on top of a drink, you'll want to use a spirit that has little to no sugar, because it will float much more easily. If you try to pour in a liqueur that is denser and heavier than what is already in the glass, it will sink to the bottom. This is actually how the Tequila Sunrise is made, with grenadine sinking to the bottom in a layer.
The back of a bar spoon or teaspoon, as well as a liquor bottle pour spout, are both really helpful tools for layering. They help control the flow of liquid so it doesn't mix as easily.
To begin mixing up this drink, get your cocktail shaker ready. Add the lemon juice and then the Aperol to the shaker.
Next, add in the simple syrup, white rum and Empress gin.
Add ice to the cocktail shaker, and give it 15 to 20 good shakes to dilute and chill the drink.
Then take your cocktail serving glass and fill it with crushed ice. Using crushed ice will help support the layers and create more of a gradient effect, rather than just a straight line floating on top.
Strain the shaken drink onto the crushed ice.
Then, carefully pour the Bloody Shiraz gin, on top and then do the same with the Empress gin. (I didn't use a bar spoon here, but pouring the gins over top the back of the spoon will help you get a more precise float.)
Add your sprig of mint as a garnish, and serve immediately.
Hint: You will probably want to serve this drink with a straw or cocktail stirrer, because of the gin floating on top. It's a strong first sip if you don't stir it first!
Frequently Asked Questions
Layering is when you make a drink where some of the ingredients are not mixed together with the rest of them. The key to layering is the density of the liquids, so the more sugary liqueurs and syrups will sink to the bottom.
Empress 1908 Gin is infused with butterfly pea flowers, which change color when they are exposed to acidic ingredients. Essentially, it is a litmus test in a flower!
Aperol is only 11% alcohol, which around the average percentage for wines. It has a bitter citrus flavor, and adds lots of sweetness as well.
Since this drink uses crushed ice, it will melt very quickly once you pour the drink. To minimize the melting, you can chill your cocktail glass ahead of time, either in the freezer or with an ice water slush.
If you're serving this drink for a party, you can batch mix the bottom layer of the drink and keep it in a pitcher in the fridge. When you're ready to serve, just pour it into your serving glass over ice and then float the two gins on top.
Gin Aperol Cocktail (Fade to Pink)
- Ice mallet and Lewis bag or other ice crusher (optional) if you don't have access to crushed ice
- Start out by adding the lemon juice, Aperol, white rum, simple syrup and Empress gin to your cocktail shaker.
- Fill the cocktail shaker with ice and give the mixture about 15-20 hard shakes.
- Fill your cocktail serving glass with crushed ice and strain the drink on top of the ice.
- Carefully pour the Bloody Shiraz gin on top of the drink so it floats on top.
- Carefully pour the Empress gin so it floats on the very top of the drink.
- Add the sprig of mint to garnish and serve immediately.