If you’ve ever been to Italy you’re definitely familiar with aperitivo, an Italian tradition now known all over the world.
Aperitivo is a relaxing and mood-lifting experience that will cheer you up after a long day at work, or energise you before a night out.
Imagine enjoying the sunset while sipping a Spritz, chatting with your friends, snacking on some amazing Italian nibbles.. what else would you want?
But a bit of history first.
It is said that the tradition of aperitivo started during the Roman Empire, with the Romans enjoying what they called “gustatio” or “promulsis” (a first version of appetisers), which consisted in offering tasty nibbles such as focaccias served with fruits, cheeses and crudités, and muslum (honey wine or mead) before dinner, which was usually reserved for banquets and events with lots of guests.
However, the modern version of aperitivo we enjoy nowadays was actually born in Turin in the 18th century, when a new drink called Vermouth was invented, which was much loved by the then king Vittorio Emanuele II. Shortly after, in early 19th century, a new Vermouth-based mixture was created fortuitously in Tuscany, when Count Camillo Negroni requested his bartender to strengthen his Americano drink with gin rather than the usual soda water, hence creating the Negroni.
Negroni is now the main drink of choice when having an aperitivo in Tuscany.
The tradition of aperitivo grew and grew especially after the introduction of Campari Soda, one of the key ingredients of the aperitivo.
It was Venice though that took the aperitivo experience to a whole new level. This is where their Spritz comes into play.
The Spritz drink originated in Veneto around the 19th century, when Austrian soldiers who were stationed in the area asked the bartenders to “spritzen” (or “spruzzare” in Italian, which means to “spray” or “add a splash”) their wine with soda or sparkling water, as it was too strong for them.
The addition of bitter made it the drink everyone loves today.
Venice is also famous for the abundance of Prosecco consumed during aperitivo, which is the Venetian key ingredient of their classic Spritz.
The aperitivo is an eternal tradition that Italy keeps preserving and that now countries such as UK and USA are starting to experience and enjoy.
Here are the classic recipes for Negroni and Spritz:
1.5 oz Campari
1.5 oz sweet vermouth
1.5 oz dry gin
1 slice of orange of garnish
2 oz bitter liqueur (Aperol or Campari)
3 to 4 oz prosecco
2 oz soda water
And remember, the cardinal rule of a Spritz is – a spritz is always effervescent! Whether the bubbles come from soda water, prosecco, or some other sparkling wine, the spritz would not be a spritz without buoyancy.
Here are my top 5 places for aperitivo in London:
- Polpo in Soho
- Cafe Murano in Bermondsey
- Illy Caffè in Regents Street
- Ombra Bar in Hackney
- Mele & Pere in Soho
Other places worth mentioning, some of which are a bit more pricey but excellent:
– Rosetta in Charing Cross
– Quaglino’s in Green Park
– Cecconi’s in Shoreditch
– Sartoria Bar in Mayfair
– Bar Termini in Soho
– Baglioni Hotel in Kensington