How to Pair Pizza and Apéritifs
Low- and no-alcohol cocktails are officially having a moment. Whether it’s fallout from the heavy drinking days of the early Covid era or the culmination of millennials leaning toward a “cleaner” lifestyle, cocktails have been trending less boozy. In response, brands are taking cues from the lighter way Europeans have been drinking for centuries and creating alcoholic drinks designed to be used in apéritifs.
As you likely know, an apéritif is a drink designed to begin an evening. The word comes from the Latin aperire or “to open.” Popular in France and Italy and often crafted from herbaceous liquors, like Italian amaro, or fortified wines, like vermouth, apéritifs live in the land of easy-drinking refreshments. That makes them delicious when paired with food that’s equally fun and easy. Enter: the pizza and apéritif pairing.
California-based, citrus-forward brand Mommenpop is one company we love that started making wine-based apéritifs over the past few years. We saw a kinship between the way their wine-based apéritifs put a modern twist on a classic drink and how our pizza ovens innovate on the traditional brick oven. Flavored with whole citrus — peels and all! – their flavors are simple but delicious, and take advantage of the expertise founder Samantha Sheehan gained in her decade of winemaking in Napa Valley. Sold both online and in local markets, their bottles are available around the United States.
Using Mommenpop’s flavors as guideposts, we put together a short guide to pizza and apéritifs.
Pairings for tomato-forward pizzas: Red pies, Margheritas, and other tomato-forward pizzas need something with a depth of flavor to counteract their acidity. An apéritif like Mommenpop’s Blood Orange provides warmth and sweetness, along with peppery notes that are perfectly at home alongside a flame-licked tomato sauce. Try an AVPN Standard Pizza Marinara with a blood orange spritz or a drink featuring Meletti Amaro’s caramel flavors, or a non-alcoholic orange Italian spritz from Lyre’s.
Pairings for rich, fatty toppings: Are you covering your pizza in cured meats or rich cheeses? (Or both?) Try an apéritif with enough oomph and bitterness to balance the fat in your toppings. Mommenpop’s Seville Orange is like “liquid orange marmalade,” with bitterness to accompany its sweetness. Try a pepperoni pizza drizzled with chipotle-infused honey complemented by Seville Orange Mommenpop on ice, an Aperol spritz or a Campari and soda.
Pairings for bold flavors: Strongly flavored and spicy toppings need a drink that can stand up to them. Blood orange apéritifs have a mellow sweetness alongside a bit of warm spice, which balance well against punchy and spicy flavors like you’d find in salami, ‘nduja or hot sauce. Make our Sweet Corn and ‘Nduja Pizza and pour yourself some Blood Orange Mommenpop, an Amaro Nonino-forward drink or Dolin Rouge vermouth on the rocks with a twist of lemon.
Pairings for white pies: A white pizza, like our riff on the Pizza Rosa from famed Arizona-based mecca Pizzeria Bianco, doesn’t have the acidity of a tomato sauce, so it can work well with the gentle fruit of a grapefruit-forward drink. Pair a pistachio and red onion Pizza Rosa with a Mommenpop Ruby Grapefruit spritz or Lillet Rosé on the rocks or go heavy on the herbal flavors with an Averna spritz laced with grapefruit bitters. Spruce up either with a sprig of fresh rosemary to echo that on the pizza.
- Pairings for vegetables: Leafy vegetable flavors — think salad-topped or veggie-laden pizzas — do well with a tart counterpoint. Citrus-based drinks like gimlets and French 75s, or a lime-accented drink like a grapefruity Paloma work well in this context. Try a Mommenpop Paloma with Dan Richer’s arugula-topped Panna Pizza.
Most importantly, have fun! These guidelines are just that — guidelines If you happen to love tomato-based pizzas with grapefruit or white pizzas with punchy, bitter orange, go for it! We’re all for experimentation.