Aperitivo: the social event in Italy

Aperitivo in Italy is a kind of evening ritual, a social event, that friends allow themselves for a break of pure relaxation. It starts usually between 6pm or 7pm. Although today it is confused with happy hour, the aperitivo was something preparatory to dinner. In fact, it prepared the palate for the final meal of the day. 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 that has emerged since the mid-2000s. 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). 

The aperitivo is usually consumed before sitting at the table, either inside a bar or at the chosen restaurant. Happy hour, on the other hand, includes an alcoholic beverage of your choice at a fixed rate with buffet included, consisting of pastas, pizzas, cold cuts, assorted sandwiches and much more. The aperitif, in northern Italy, has been almost completely replaced by happy hour. In central Italy, in Rome for example, happy hour is mainly used for business meetings. In southern Italy, however, the culture of “eating calmly” remains, so the aperitif often becomes a bit of a hindrance to the meal.

Clearly, there are many exceptions that confirm the rule: the most touristic regions have in fact absorbed the culture of happy hour more. In Naples, for example, the culture of food is extended to all hours of the day, so nothing prevents you from enjoying the delicacies of the place at any time. 

Aperitivo: alcoholic types

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

  • 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 to stimulate bitter flavors;
  • 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, an Italian boxer who lived in the USA. It is composed of red vermouth, soda and bitters.

In the 1920s, this cocktail was reworked in Florence by Luigi Scarselli: replacing gin with soda he created Negroni. Gin was later replaced by mistake with sparkling wine and thus Negroni Sbagliato was born.

Perhaps however, the father of these cocktails was Mi-To, a drink created to celebrate the highway that connected Milan to Turin. It is based on 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.

Spritz, an alcohol with white wine or prosecco, Aperol and sparkling water, and Bellini, sparkling white wine, pulp and white peach juice are also highly appreciated.

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

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