Meet The Grape Gatsby, an incredibly happy-making craft cocktail with Aperol, champagne, and verjus created by Lukas Bernleithner for the rooftop bar Der Dachboden (The Loft) at 25hours Hotel in Vienna. I couldn't love this drink more if I tried.
Why we love this recipe
I'll be honest: the first reason I love The Grape Gatsby is because it takes me back to the moment below, from my April, 2019 trip to Vienna.
That's a pretty advantageous start. But there are so many reasons to love this cocktail that I haven't been able to get it out of my head since that night.
With its base of Aperol and sparkling wine, this jewel-toned drink is in some ways just a sophisticated riff on the Aperol Spritz. But it's layered and complex enough that it took me a while to notice that fact, as well as the fact that it doesn't include a base liquor.
Verjus and grapefruit juice come together to offer a super well-rounded tartness, while sweet vermouth and grapefruit bitters add a multifaceted, gentle sweetness and bitterness.
And then, of course, there's the name. Even on a menu full of fabulous cocktail names, The Grape Gatsby caught my eye right away. The name made me want to want this cocktail, so I crossed my fingers for luck before reading through the list of ingredients.
It totally worked.
I eventually reached out to Lukas Bernleithner, the bartender who created the drink for the rooftop bar Der Dachboden at the 25hours Hotel in Vienna's Museum Quarter. He generously agreed to let me publish it.
What you'll need
Here's a glance at the ingredients you'll need to make this recipe.
- Aperol is the base of this cocktail. This slightly sweet and fruity, gently bitter Italian apéritif is made with oranges, rhubarb, herbs, and some top-secret ingredients. It's been around since 1919 and has a gorgeous orange color. "Aperol" comes "apero," the French slang word for apéritif.
- For the red vermouth (also called sweet vermouth), you've got several options. Lukas uses Martini rosso. My favorite is Carpano Antica, pictured here. Other good choices include Punt e Mes (which is more bitter), Cocchi Storico Vermouth di Torino (well-balanced), and Dolin.
- Verjus adds a complex freshness and tang to this cocktail. See the FAQ section below to learn all about it.
- Plenty of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice pairs beautifully with the other ingredients. I really prefer to squeeze it fresh, but if you're making a lot of this drink, it's okay to use a cold-pressed, bottled version from the refrigerator section of the supermarket.
- A few dashes of grapefruit bitters add another layer of complexity. Lukas and I both use Fee Brothers.
- You'll top things off with Champagne or another good sparkling wine. I typically use our favorite Chandon Brut, which is from California but shares a lot of the characteristics of a good midprice Champagne. Here I've pictured the popular and tasty La Marca prosecco. You can use any sparkling wine that you enjoy drinking.
- Garnish this drink with a grapefruit twist.
How to make it
Here's an overview of what you'll do to make a Grape Gatsby. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.
- Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Pour in the Aperol, vermouth, and verjus.
- Juice the grapefruit and strain it into the shaker. Follow with the grapefruit bitters.
- Shake very well, until the outside of the shaker is very cold, and strain into a coupe glass.
- Top with Champagne and garnish with a grapefruit twist. That's it!
Expert tips and FAQs
Verjus (from vert jus, or green juice), is the pressed juice of unripened grapes. When winemakers thin out their vines as crops begin to ripen, they can use those culled grapes to make this culinary treasure.
Verjus is sour, sweet, and complex-tasting, like a softer, milder version of vinegar. In addition to adding depth to cocktails like this one it has a multitude of uses in the kitchen, from deglazing a pan to enrich a sauce, to subbing in for vinegar in salad dressings. It comes in red and white varieties. I've used white here, but either will work.
Verjus is not fermented, and it's nonalcoholic.
Sure thing. To make 8 drinks, add the following to a pitcher up to three hours before serving time: 1 ¾ cups Aperol, ¾ cup red vermouth, ¾ cup verjus, 1 ½ cups freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, 24 dashes grapefruit bitters, and ½ cup water. Give it a stir and let it chill in the fridge until serving time. When ready to serve, divide among glasses and top each with Champagne. Garnish each glass with a grapefruit twist and serve.
Love bubbly cocktails?
So do I! Try some of my other favorites:
- 50 ml (1 ¾ ounces) Aperol
- 20 ml (¾ ounce) red vermouth
- 20 ml (¾ ounce) verjus (see note below)
- 40 ml (1 ½ ounces) fresh grapefruit juice
- 3 dashes grapefruit bitters
- Champagne or other sparkling wine, to top
- Long grapefruit twist, to garnish
- Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice.
- Pour in Aperol, vermouth, verjus, grapefruit juice, and grapefruit bitters.
- Shake very well and strain into a coupe glass.
- Top with Champagne.
- Garnish with a grapefruit twist and serve.
- I've provided an Amazon affiliate link for sourcing verjus below, but if you absolutely can't get your hands on a bottle, you can substitute freshly squeezed lime juice in a pinch.
- When possible, I really prefer to squeeze grapefruit juice fresh, but if you're making a lot of this drink, it's okay to use a cold-pressed, bottled version from the refrigerator section of the supermarket.
- Technically you should double-strain this cocktail, meaning that in addition to the shaker's strainer, you should hold a fine-mesh sieve like the one in the video over the glass whilst pouring. I find I never have enough hands to do this, which is why I strain the grapefruit juice on its own before pouring it into the shaker.
- If you like, you can batch this cocktail for a party. To make 8 drinks, add the following to a pitcher up to three hours before serving time: 1 ¾ cups Aperol, ¾ cup red vermouth, ¾ cup verjus, 1 ½ cups freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, 24 dashes grapefruit bitters, and ½ cup water. Give it a stir and let it chill in the fridge until serving time. When ready to serve, divide among glasses and top each with Champagne. Garnish each glass with a grapefruit twist and serve.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 200