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The Aperitivo Explained


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

dinner afterward.

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

to 10pm.

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!


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