This magic word has the innate ability to bring a smile to any Italian person’s face- as it is most likely associated with some amazing evenings and great memories that they’ve shared with friends and family! Whether it is a football game, a first date, or a graduation party, there’s no better way to kick off the celebration than with aperitivo. Because who doesn’t want to have fun drinks and delicious appetizers with their loved ones! While this tradition has been an Italian pride for centuries, the rest of the world is soon catching up to this fun drinking practice. So, what exactly is aperitivo and what are its origins? Bbcgoodfood.com has described it as “An aperitivo is usually an alcoholic beverage (but can also be non-alcoholic), generally served before a meal to stimulate the appetite, and is therefore usually dry rather than sweet.” Even the name aperitivo stems from the Latin “aperire” which means “to open”, in this case, to open the appetite but it could also mean to open up socially. Traditionally, the alcohol served is a bitter and low alcoholic beverage with the intention of “waking up” the digestive system so that it’s ready for the meal ahead. As for the food, the food served usually is cheese, cured meats, nuts, olives, or chips but these days there are places serving an entire buffet of food to go along with the drinks.
But where exactly did this tradition originate from? Well, the idea of using bitter alcohol to increase one’s appetite originates from the Greek physician Hippocrates, who used a concoction of white sweet wine and dittamus flowers, wormwood, and rue to help his patients suffering from a loss of appetite. However, it was Rome where the ancient version of aperitivo originated. Dubbed as “gustatio”, this ancient roman tradition served the same two purposes as modern apertivio, which is to: tickle their appetite before elaborate banquets and dinners as well as to help the guests mingle over a drink and snacks. The main drink in a “gustatio” was muslum- a wine mixed with honey and flavoured with spices. The food served was a Roman fare of fruit, cheeses, focaccia served with sauces and cruditées. Cut to centuries later, distiller Antonio Benedetto Carpano’s creation of Vermouth inadvertently led to the establishment of the modern-day aperitivo. In the 19th century Tuscany, Count Camillo Negroni accidentally concocted the famous cocktail Negroni by asking the bartender to add more gin to his favourite cocktail the americano (which consists of Campari, Vermouth, and sparkling soda). This cocktail became so famous, that it led to an establishment of the aperitivo culture in Turin and soon the rest of Italy, but this time it was for everyone and not just the elite.
The Venetian version of this ritual which includes the famous Spritz cocktail is however the closest to our heart and also the most renowned one in modern times. Legend has it that the Austrian soldiers occupying Venice in the 1800s found the local wine to be too strong and asked to spray a drop of water into the wine (‘spritzen’ in German) and thus the earlier rendition of the Spritz was born- today’s version however also includes digestive bitters. This stunning cocktail is like sunshine in a glass thanks to the amazing combination of Prosecco, bitters (such as Select, Aperol or Campari), and soda water and goes well with just about any food, but nothing compares to consuming it with Cicchetti (Venetian snacks) in Baccari (Venetian bars). In Veneto, it is also common to consume just the Prosecco for aperitivo instead of the Spritz for a true Venetian experience. For this we recommend our
So which drink should you order? Well, it’s hard to go wrong with aperitivo, but usually, the drinks could be a Spritz, Negroni or a Martini are the classic choices, you could just opt for a glass (or two!) of Prosecco. There’s no better way to experience Italian culture and life than through aperitivo!