Aperi-what? Although gaining a little more traction in the US, the word ‘aperitivo’ is relatively unheard of. However, the idea is actually pretty popular. The Italian word and idea of ‘aperitivo’ can be compared to our ‘happy hour’!
Aperitivo is an Italian custom, a way of rounding off the work day by gathering in a bar for drinks and nibbles before heading home for dinner. It’s a time to relax, socialize, and get your palate and stomach warmed up for dinner (the word aprire meaning ‘to open’ and aperto "opened", in this case referring to your stomach!). This usually happens around 6pm or 7pm, a little later than our happy hour. This makes sense when you understand that dinner in Italy starts later too - usually 8pm or later.
In Italy, when you enter a bar for an aperitivo, you order a drink (many people order an aperol spritz - although any drink can be ordered) and then depending on the bar, the server will bring complimentary snacks to the table like chips, nuts, breadsticks, and olives or the snacks can be more robust like different types of bruschetta, quiche, or fried foods.
There is also a new trend gaining popularity called the apericena. The apericena (formed by adding cena (dinner) to aperitivo) includes, cocktails or wine with a heavier buffet or plate offerings than a traditional aperitivo. This trend started in Milan and Turin and is a new twist on the custom which originally catered to students and a younger crowd, who perhaps didn’t have the funds for a restaurant dinner, or the time to go home and eat a traditional meal.
As mentioned above, Aperol Spritz tends to be the most ordered drink for aperitivo. Many people have heard of this drink, but did you know that there are different versions of the spritz - varying depending on the region it comes from. Here are a few of the variations we have ordered while traveling and that we recommend trying!:
*Aperol Spritz (from Venezia) - Made with Aperol, prosecco, soda water, and a slice of orange.
*Aperol is bright orange in color and has a bittersweet taste. The company states that it makes the liqueur by combining oranges, herbs and roots. The prosecco helps to bring out the sweetness of the liqueur while the salty snacks served with it compliments the bitterness of the drink.
Hugo Spritz (from North Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige) - Prosecco, St-Germain (elderflower liqueur), soda water, and fresh mint.
Limoncello Spritz (from the Amalfi Coast) - Prosecco, limoncello, soda water, and a slice of lemon.
Nerano Spritz (from Nerano) - Prosecco, Passoa (passion fruit liqueur), soda water, and a slice of lime.
As you can see, the two base ingredients are prosecco and soda water - then add the liqueur. It’s pretty simple and makes the perfect, refreshing summer drink! But let’s be honest - we will order this in the dead of winter too! Salute!