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The Italian Aperitivo

Going for an aperitivo is an everday part of life in Italy.  It is the time of day, usually between the hours of 6pm and 9pm when Italians go for a pre-dinner drink (which helps to stimulate the appetite).  This is normally served along with some snacks such as a selection of meats, bread, olives and cheeses (not peanuts and crisps!)  This is a way for Italians to relax and also helps curb the hunger pangs as they always eat their main meal late in the evening.

Having an aperitivo was originally a Northern Italian custom but now happens pretty much over the whole of Italy.  It is not like ‘happy hour’ in the UK and USA, nobody goes out to get drunk when going for an aperitivo.

An aperitivo can be either alcoholic or non alcoholic and often has a bitter or dry taste.  Some popular drinks to order for an aperitivo are;

Campari – flavoured with various herbs and quinine, this bitter tasting drink is red in colour and usually served with soda and ice cubes.

Aperol – this is made with a mix of herbs and is orange in colour.  Again it has a bitter aftertaste to it.  Normally served with ice cubes and a slice of lemon.

Vermouth –  made from wine grapes with other ingredients added such as cloves, quinine, citrus peel, cinnamon amongst many other ingredients.  Again you can get sweet vermouths but the Italian version is normally a red colour and mildly bitter.  This can also be drunk as a digestive after dinner.

Spritz – an Italian cocktail which is made with prosecco, sparkling water and campari or aperol.

Wine – usually a glass of dry white wine.

Negroni – an Italian cocktail made from red vermouth, campari and gin.