Mixologists in the US, you have met your match. Happy Hour be gone. The aperitivo in Italy is where it’s at. It’s an absolute way of life, a philopsophy, a state of mind. I think it has something to do with the Italian mindset. The word aperitivo comes from the Latin word meaning “to open up”. It It is truly a beginning, a way to awaken or open up the appetite as a lead up to a great evening which will include a dinner that is lingered over until the wee hours. There is an elegance to this Italian tradition which started in the lovely Northern Italian city of Turin.
I love everything about the Italian aperitivo. The late afternoon light is perfect, there is a quiet and calm that permeates the bar as perfectly coiffed and dressed locals gather with friends. The cocktails are colorful and intentionally not overpowering- this is meant not to inebriate but to enhance. There are always nibbles served in little bowls - olives, marcona almonds, potato chips - and sometimes a few other appetizer type goodies. Not a heaping platter of nachos or a bottomless pile of chicken wings. An aperitivo does not replace dinner, it complements it.
Here are some of my favorite aperitivo choices, including a new one that I discovered and absolutely fell in love with in Puglia:
Rosè, sparkling water and cucumber simple syrup - this is one of the most refreshing cocktails I have ever had. It was made with a local rose and was a perfect way to end a day while sitting at a bar with a sea view.
Prosecco - If you know me at all, you know my love affair with this bubbly beverage. It’s crisp, light and festive. Not exactly a cocktail but prosecco is always a good choice for aperitivo.
Spritz - I have been loving on the spritz lately. Of course, it includes my old love, prosecco, along with aperol (a bitter orange liquor), sparkling water and plenty of ice. Very refreshing.
Negroni - a throwback to the dolce vita days of Fellini in Rome. Here is a recipe.
Campari Soda- simple and non-alcoholic but none the less festive and a perfect pre-dinner drink. It is a bit bitter.
Do aperitivo Italian style this weekend - it’s the perfect way to start an evening to remember.