With just three ingredients an Aperol Bourbon Manhattan (aka Little Italy cocktail) is a fabulously easy, spirit-forward mixed drink for summer!
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Reaching for Aperol instead of amaro creates this riff of a Black Manhattan. The addition of citrus flavors and robust bitterness is what makes this cocktail recipe so special.
Topping the cocktail with floral Montenegro amaro adds some balanced woodiness and vegetal notes underneath the florals and citrus.
When I created this aperol bourbon cocktail, I had no idea it was already a classic, known as a Little Italy. The simple ingredients and delicious bittersweet flavor explain its popularity.
The Little Italy Cocktail
This mixed drink is a riff on a Manhattan, which is a classic 3-ingredient whiskey cocktail with bourbon or rye, sweet vermouth, and bitters.
While the ratio of whiskey to vermouth varies by each particular drinker’s preference, (much like a martini) you’ll find enthusiasts using anything from 2:1 whiskey to vermouth, to a much drier, 5:1.
To learn more about the Manhattan, head over to
The original Little Italy was created in 2005, by Audrey Saunders, at the famed Pegu Club. That drink recipe included Cynar (an artichoke-based amaro), rye whiskey and sweet vermouth.
It’s a perfect balance of rye spice and sweetness from the vermouth as well as the bittersweet and vegetal flavors from the Cynar.
The original Little Italy did not include this ingredient, but with notes of grapefruit, orange, and lemon, it pairs really well with a citrus-heavy bourbon, which is what I used here.
Elijah Craig bourbon is a fantastic spirit for summer drinks! The citrusy flavors beg to be served cold.
I decided to add in Montenegro because it has floral and citrus notes underpinning on the nose. Using Cynar would have darkened the flavor and color of this bourbon cocktail. I prefer the floral/citrus pairing.
Tips for the Best Aperol Bourbon Cocktail
- Chill the glass.
When you drink a Little Italy cocktail, the citrus flavors will make you want to take a trip to a sunny destination. It may go without saying, but summer cocktails demand to be served ice cold!
it’s a quick stir over ice in a mixing glass, then pour it into a chilled and prepped coupe glass.
Other Aperol Bourbon Drinks You May Enjoy
- Rhubarb Aperol Spritz – This spritz drink includes rye and a fruity and woody rhubarb simple syrup.
Recommended Bar Tools
You don’t need every slick, beautiful bar tool out there, but there are several I’ll recommend. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, that does not affect the cost of the items below.) My favorite pieces usually come from the Cocktail Kingdom section of Amazon:
You may already have these bar essentials, but just in case:
Aperol Bourbon Manhattan (Little Italy Cocktail)
- 2 oz bourbon
- 1 oz Aperol
- ½ oz Montenegro amaro
- Garnish: cherries
- Combine bourbon, Aperol and amaro in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir for 30 seconds or until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with cherries.
This post, originally published July 2021, was updated with new content in February 2023.