What is the aperitivo in Italy? It is a way people stay connected, and can be a dinner option for
those who just want a light evening meal or who are on a strict budget.
This fun and tasty trend began in Milano in the 80’s when some bars had the idea to serve
snacks with their drinks during Happy Hour. Naturally, people would opt to enjoy their cocktails
at establishments that provided free nibbles. Other bars began to follow suit, some even offering
dishes like hot pasta, thus giving people the opportunity to eat their primo and then go out for
The Milanese trend trickled south to many cities including Florence. Just about every lounge
bar, coffee bar, and enoteca in the city serves some form of aperitivo buffet with their drinks.
Good music is also crucial, since it sets the mood for relaxation and animated conversation.
Beyond the world of wine lies a wide assortment of cocktails to discover in Italy, including the
Negroni, the Spritz, and the Americano. Intended to whet the palate, these three cocktails
usually contain Campari, but are also offered with some minor variations. These iconic Italian
cocktails feature distinctive ingredients like Aperol, Campari and Vermouth and contain flavors
that stimulate the appetite— thus, perfect for the Italian aperitivo. The social activity known as
aperitivo takes place in a lively atmosphere, at a bar or party, accompanied by lighttasting
cocktails and predinner snacks. It happens almost every night of the week, and in some
locales, the finger foods are enough for a full meal, at the price of an €8 or €9 cocktail, from 6pm
The Americano is made with half Campari, half sweet Vermouth, and soda water, and is
garnished with lemon. It was originally served in Gaspare Campari’s café in Milan and called the
MilanoTorino cocktail in reference to the Campari from Milan and Vermouth from Turin.
However, as the drink grew in popularity among American tourists, it became known as the
In 1919, when Count Camillo Negroni was at Florence’s Caffè Casoni (now Caffè Giacosa), he
ordered his Americano a little bit stronger. The bartender decided to add gin instead of soda
water, and an orange instead of a lemon, to distinguish this new and different drink. The cocktail
was so well received that the Negroni family founded a Negroni Distillery in Treviso, Italy.
Currently there are three different variations of the Negroni cocktail. The first is called the
Negroni sbagliato, the “wrong” Negroni, wherein Spumante Brut (dry sparkling white wine) is
substituted for gin. The Negroski is a version made with vodka instead of gin. Lastly, the
Sparkling Negroni contains the original gin, Campari and Vermouth, plus Champagne or
Prosecco, sometimes garnished with an orange twist.
Another typical choice for aperitivo is the Spritz cocktail, which is made with one ounce of
Aperol, two ounces Prosecco, and Seltzer. For those who prefer a more bitter flavor, Campari
can be used instead of the sweeter, lighter Aperol.
Venturing away from standard American cocktails makes for a delicious change of pace, while
experiencing the Italian aperitivo tradition takes you a step closer to adopting the quintessential
Italian lifestyle. Enjoy your aperitivo. Cin cin!