Aperitivo comes from the Latin word aperire, literally “to open,” and in Italian you still describe the effect of something appetizing as something that “opens your stomach.” That’s the idea behind the traditional Italian aperitivo, a little something to encourage you to feel hungry, to get the juices flowing, if you will, so you can fully enjoy your upcoming meal.
It’s a pre-meal drink meant to stimulate appetite. After a long day of work or on weekends, aperitivo is an experience to share with friends and co-workers to socialize, while having a drink paired with a varieties of complimentary appetizers.
Aperitivo, like most Italian things, has an ancient story. It seems that in ancient Rome there were drinks made of wine and honey that were consumed before meals. The modern aperitivo goes back to 1786 when Antonio Carpano invented the vermouth in Turin. It really took off at the end of the 19th century in popular cafes in Milano, Roma, Firenze and Venezia, where beverages used to be served before dinner to stimulate the appetite.
What are the most popular aperitivo drinks? It depends on what you're after. Hugo is trendy, a Spritz traditional and the Negroni is most popular
Nowadays in Italy, the tradition of aperitivo time started in cafes, bar and restaurants. More recently, it’s expanded to bakeries, butcher shops and even hair s and boutiques. Aperitivo is not only about recreation and fun. It’s become a common custom like breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s not unusual to set up a business meeting while having an aperitivo: sipping on a glass of wine, a Spritz or a Hugo.
Did you know the difference between Aperitivo and Happy Hour?
Since its introduction during the Prohibition era, Happy Hour was an all-you-can-drink deal, serving discounted alcoholic beverages before dinner, which is different from the socio-cultural aspect of the aperitivo.
Try aperitivo for yourself with our Aperitivo Box, filled with everything you need to try this Italian social mainstay at home.
Written by Alice di Pietro, Photographs by Stepanie Palmer D'Andrea