Aperitivo: the social event in Italy

Aperitivo in Italy is a kind of evening ritual, a social event.

It starts usually between 6pm or 7pm. Although today it is confused with the happy hour, the aperitivo was something preparatory to dinner. Its origins are historical and in fact go back well before the unification of Italy.

Let’s find out more about this appetizing ritual.

Aperitivo: a bit of history

The first aperitivo seems to date back to 1786 in Piedmont when Mr. Antonio Benedetto Carpano invented vermouth, a white wine with an infusion of 30 herbs and spices. The true affirmation of the aperitivo dates back, however, to 1900, with the Milanese Campari of 1932.

Today it provides the choice between wines and cocktails, such as Americano or Spritz, but also sparkling wine white or pink.

Aperitivo or happy hour?

The aperitivo, in the traditional sense, is very different from the happy hour. In fact, the aperitivo prepares for dinner, while happy hour replaces it. In some cases you can hear about “apericena“, a mix between the word aperitivo and dinner (as the tastings with which you accompany the drink are a little more substantial). 

Many people consumes the aperitivo sitting at the table or inside a bar. Happy hour, on the other hand, includes an alcoholic beverage of your choice at a fixed rate with buffet, consisting of pastas, pizzas, cold cuts, sandwiches and much more.

In some regions, the aperitif has been almost completely replaced by the happy hour. 

Aperitivo: alcoholic types

It is useful to make a distinction between the types of alcohol used during the aperitif:

  • Wine: sparkling wine, like Prosecco, is a refreshing drink;
  • Bitter and seltz: they are the most popular aperitifs, often also available in the bottle. These are Campari, Aperol, Crodino, Cynar or Spritz;
  • Vermouth: it is often drunk in the dry version with olives;
  • Cocktails, beers and soft drinks

Aperitif: what are the Italian cocktails?

The first Italian cocktail is the Americano, a drink created in the late nineteenth century in honor of Primo Carnera. He was an Italian boxer who lived in the USA. You can make it mixing red vermouth, soda and bitters.

Luigi Scarselli reworked this cocktail in the 1920s in Florence. He replaced soda with gin and he created Negroni

Perhaps however, the father of these cocktails was Mi-To, a drink created to celebrate the highway that connected Milan to Turin. It creates mixing Campari and Vermouth in a cup, without ice.

Martini Dry was born in the 1960s, a much loved cocktail made up of gin and vermouth.

They are very appreciated the Spritz  and the Bellini.

And you? What do you prefer between aperitivo and happy hour?

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