The Aperitivo, an Italian tradition

The Italian Aperitivo is a cultural tradition that usually takes place between 18:00 and 20:00.

It is an event that serves as an appetizer to dinner with the purpose of socializing with friends while drinking sunset-hued cocktails and snacking on a selection of cheeses and salami, bruschetta and sometimes fried foods. It is so embedded in the Italian lifestyle that bars all over the Italian peninsula host aperitivi with various drink and food options every day.

How did this tradition become so popular in Italy and what are some of the best drinks to consider ordering when going to an Aperitivo? 

The story of Aperitivo originates in Turin in 1786, when Italian distiller and inventor Antonio Benedetto Carpano develops a mixture of muscat wine, herbs and spices, creating the drink now known as Vermouth. Once the drink started selling in his shop, people from all social classes could enjoy a glass of Vermouth after work while socializing with friends.

The concept of Aperitivo appears in the book Torino 1880 by Edmondo De Amicis, in which the notion “Vermouth Hour” is used to describe a moment in which liquorists’ shops were crowded and people would socialize in groups after work.

The accessibility of this event to all social classes allowed for this tradition to grow and extend to the rest of the country. This success incentivized the creation of a variety of drinks to enjoy during Aperitivo, raising the competition in the market with brands such as Ramazzotti, Campari, Martini, Cinzano, Gancia and Cocchi.

The birth of Aperol Spritz, which is considered to be one of the most famous drinks consumed during Aperitivo, dates back to 1919 when the Aperol house was founded in Padua.

The history of Aperitivo outlines the importance of a break from work in the Italian lifestyle, which serves as a way to find a time of day in which it is possible to catch up or socialize with friends or family. 

Here is a list of some of the most famous drinks that characterize Aperitivo: 

  • Aperol Spritz: It is considered to be the most favourite drink by Italians, especially during the summer thanks to its vibrant colours as well as its moderate alcohol content. Ingredients: 1/3 of Aperol Campari, 1/3 Prosecco, 1/3 Soda. (It is usually served with a slice of orange).
  • Negroni: It was created in the 1920s when Count Camillo Negroni, tired of the usual Americano aperitivo, asked the bartender to add some gin. Ingredients: 3/8 of Gin, 3/8 of Red Bitter and 2/8 of Red Vermouth.
  • Americano (Milano Torino): In spite of the name, its ingredients are Italian, and it is no coincidence that it is also known as Milano Torino, which are the two cities where bitter and Vermouth were born. Ingredients: 1/2 of Bitter and 1/2 of Vermouth.
  • Garibaldi: It is a cocktail suitable for any season of the year. It is thirst-quenching, tasty and light, in regard to the alcohol content. Ingredients: 3/10 of Campari, 7/10 of orange juice, some ice and a slice of orange.
  • Gin Tonic: This cocktail was born in India during the colonial era as British soldiers used to defend themselves from heat and tropical diseases by taking a quinine tonic. It was then made sweeter throughout the years as it became a drink usually consumed during Aperitivo mainly by British people. Ingredients: 1/3 of Gin and 2/3 of tonic water.
  • Moscow Mule: It is a long drink without too much alcohol content that recently became popular due to the presence of ginger, which adds a pungent flavour and presents beneficial properties. Ingredients: 45ml of Vodka, 120ml of Ginger Beer, 5ml of fresh lime juice and a slice of lime.

Also read: Italian food recipes

The variety of drinks is also enriched by the vast choice of snacks that often differ from each bar. Unfortunately, the current regulations imposed by the government with the purpose of stopping the diffusion of the Covid-19 virus have made it difficult for everyone to meet for the traditional Aperitivo.

However, it is during this time that people could start experimenting with different drinks and create cocktails at home in order to never miss out on Aperitivo.