SUMMER IN THE CITY & OUR LOVE AFFAIR WITH APERITIVO TIME
The Italian word aperitivo doesn’t have a literal English translation. Derived from the Latin aperire (meaning “to open”), aperitivo describes a pre-dinner sipping and snacking ritual intended to stimulate appetite and encourage digestion, a precious moment to slow down and enjoy face time sans smartphones. As the day comes to a close, cafés across Italy fill until they overflow into adjacent piazzas with people partaking in the sacred custom of fare un’aperitivo. It’s an integral part of the Italian experience and the rest of the world are beginning to catch on.
Light, refreshing and fizzy, aperitivos are also full of flavour, optimized to wet your palate without dulling your taste buds or compromising your tolerance like stronger liquors or sugary cocktails. They’re generally lower in alcohol content and are served with a dash of sparkling or soda water, over ice or with a twist to offset their innate intensity.
In Spritz: Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail, aperitivos are divided into two main classifications: aromatised wines and bitter liqueurs. The former consists of wines that have been fortified or strengthened and naturally flavoured, such as vermouth, chinato and Americano. The latter encompasses bitter liqueurs like Cappelletti and Contratto that are easily recognisable by their bright yellow, orange or red shades. The strength and taste of each liqueur corresponds to the depth of its hue, with fiery Aperol leaning sweeter and lighter than scarlet Campari, which tends to be sharper and more alcoholic.
Like most of the greatest contributions to Western civilisation, the aperitivo tradition can be traced back to ancient Greece, where it was born out of necessity. They had a lot of strong wine, but it wasn’t necessarily delicious. Diluting wine with water — or adding honey, spices and herbs — made the drink more palatable and helped to fend off drunkenness. When Rome surpassed Greece as the dominant power in the Mediterranean in the middle of the second century B.C, they adopted the practice as their own.
It wasn’t until the turn of the nineteenth century that aperitivos began to take off internationally, gaining widespread popularity throughout Europe and the rest of the world. In Europe, wine is and always has been a natural part of life. Everyone drinks it, not just the elite class. The first domestic iteration of the spritz was the white-wine spritzer of the 1980s, a glorified diet fad reflective of the era’s complete rejection of challenging flavours.
Finding the aperitivo that suits your palate is only a matter of opening up to unfamiliar words, colours, flavours and textures. The beautiful thing about aperitivos is that you can turn each one into a beverage that fits your taste or find something else that you like better. There’s an entire world of them should you choose to explore it.
A bottle of chilled Casanova DOC Prosecco
A bottle of Sette Vie Aperitivo
Tall balloon or wine glass
Slices of orange
How to make the perfect Aperitivo Spritz:
Fill the glasses generously with ice cubes
First pour three parts of Casanova DOC Prosecco (75ml) over the ice
Then, pour three parts Sette Vie Aperitivo (50ml) into each glass in a circular movement
Finish with a dash of soda (25ml)
Garnish with a slice of orange
It’s simple but oh, so delicious!
RULES FOR APERITIVO
Salt liberally. There’s a reason for the olive in the Venetian take on the spritz; the aperitivo spread is an extension of that idea. Salty snacks provoke thirst, which the combination of citrus and bubble quenches, while bitters open the appetite. Keep that in mind when pairing with the bittersweet Aperol Spritz.
Size bites. Aperitivo food should, in most cases, be easy to eat with one’s hands and in one or two bites. Use skewers to stack roasted vegetables or grilled seafood. Supply toothpicks and small plates for grazers and small bowls for olive pits, shrimp shells and the like.
Simple does it. Aperitivo is not meant to be dinner (though it isn’t uncommon for dinner to be replaced by a particularly long aperitivo session). This is still meant to be a cocktail hour, so all food should encourage socialising, not restrict it. An artfully constructed cheese plate or classic tramezzini around which conversation can take place is ideal.