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  • Writer's pictureMade of Italy TEAM

How to recognize an aperitif

But let’s see together what the essential elements of the aperitif are! What to drink: the beverages consumed during the aperitif can vary depending on personal tastes.

The most common aperitifs include wine, prosecco, vermouth, Campari, beer, and cocktails like negroni or Aperol spritz. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be alcoholic: many opt for non-alcoholic drinks like tonic water or fruit juice.

What to eat: a proper aperitif will offer snacks to accompany the drink, often light and designed to stimulate the appetite. Among the most common are olives, chips, and peanuts, or cheeses, cold cuts, croutons with various sauces, and various other delicacies. Many establishments have now adapted to be as inclusive as possible, offering options for vegans or celiacs, such as hummus and crudités.

Where to be: the aperitif can be enjoyed in a bar, a pub, a wine shop, a restaurant, or even at home with friends and family. The atmosphere is informal and relaxed, and the main goal is to spend quality time with others.

What time: in Italy, the aperitif is often consumed in the late afternoon or early evening, usually between 6 and 9 PM, but the timing can vary from region to region and from country to country (and also depending on the season). 

What does “aperitif” really mean?

The word “aperitif” means “that which opens,” or in other words, a beverage that opens the stomach by stimulating the sensation of hunger. The tradition of the aperitif, in fact, has deep roots in Italian history and dates back to ancient Rome. In ancient Rome, banquets were a common practice, and before dinner, guests were offered a bitter-tasting alcoholic drink that had the purpose of stimulating the appetite. 

From Ancient Greece: Hippocrates and the Curative Aperitif

The practice of the aperitif was not unique to Rome but was also a favored custom among the Greeks. Even Hippocrates, the famous Greek physician, used it for therapeutic purposes: he administered bitter-tasting drinks to his patients to alleviate loss of appetite. Bitterness had the power to stimulate the desire for food. If you think about it, even today, most people prefer a bitter drink during the aperitif hour or at least one that leaves a bitter aftertaste, such as bitter or Campari. 

How did the tradition of the aperitif as we know it today come about?

We are in Turin in 1786. Antonio Benedetto Carpano had a small liquor shop, and one day he invented an aromatized wine. He added a bit of cinchona bark, and voilà, Vermouth was born. Vittorio Emanuele II, the king of Italy at the time, tasted it and was ecstatic, so much so that he named it the Official Court Aperitif. It was now the law: every evening, before sitting down to eat, a glass of Vermouth was consumed for a more enjoyable meal. From here, the aperitif trend spread, and other liquor producers began to reinvent themselves, creating the liquors we love today: wine producers Martini and Rossi created Martini Bianco, pharmacist Ausano Ramazzotti gave birth to Amaro Ramazzotti (the first aperitif liqueur not based on wine), and last but not least, Gaspari Campari developed the secret recipe for Campari, also known as bitter (which in German means bitter). Whether it’s a Spritz or an elaborate cocktail, the aperitif is more than just a drink; it’s a ritual for sharing a moment of relaxation and conviviality with friends and family. The main goal of the aperitif is to socialize, relax, meet new people, and prepare the palate for dinner.Let’s raise our glasses and toast!


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