Nothing could be more refined, yet easy-going than this time-honored ritual that whets the appetite all over the peninsula, though the roots of this tradition lie in the North. At the dawn of the Industrial Age, when so much was new, drinking saw new inventions, too! When wine was considered to be for manly imbibing, ladies needed something to sip in that golden hour before the evening meal, and so, presto, out came the bitters and vermouth that would soon become legendary: Campari, Martini, Angostura, and more, often mixed with soda water for that energetic fizz.

 

These herb- and plant-based spirits were designed not only to look stylish in a cocktail glass held in a lady’s hand, but, in particular, to open up the taste buds in preparation for the evening’s culinary delight – and this still rings true! The fresh, bracing flavor of these early-evening cocktails still tempt us today, though nowadays they are often accompanied by small bites such as mini-pizzas and puff-pastry appetizers, or delectable olives, nuts and finger sandwiches. Whether you’re at a minimalist fashion bar in Milan, a gilded, old-world establishment in Turin, or a neighborhood counter bar in Rome, come 7 p.m., everyone is savoring the moment, taking a pause to survey the day over an aperitivo.

 

Want to recreate this Italian-style happy hour at home? Simply pull up your leather lounge sofa, designer chair or barstool, gather round a few friends, and prepare a few light drink options:

  • Try orange-based bitters, sambuca and gin in a mixing glass half-filled with ice. Stir well, strain, and serve in a cocktail glass with an orange twist.
  • Or, for a traditional Negroni: sweet vermouth, dry gin, just a dash of orange bitters, and Campari.
  • For a truly refreshing idea, mix 2 parts dry red wine with 1 part bitters and 1 part hard cider.

 

And to experience aperitivo the modern way, don’t forget to include wine: why not a Barbera, or some sparkling Prosecco?

 

The perfect finger foods for this occasion are sure to be found at your closest Italian deli or food shop: salami, prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, every type of olive under the sun…and making bruschetta is truly a breeze! Finish it all off with a dash of your finest olive oil, and you’ve got yourself a miniature feast. Plus, you won’t even need antipasti before dinner!