Italians love hanging out with friends and family whilst sipping a refreshing cocktail or a glass of prosecco. The aperitif in Italy is a real tradition which goes back to the Ancient Rome times when an alcoholic drink was drunk before dinner to whet the appetite. However, the official aperitif was born in Turin in 1786 when Antonio Benedetto Carpano invented the Vermouth; liquor created to be drunk before dinner. Vermouth is still a staple among many current Italian cocktail recipes.
At some point in time drinks started being served with nibbles such as green olives, crisps, dry fruits, peanuts and savoury little biscuits called “salatini” In the past 15 years or so the aperitivo evolved into a sort of light dinner or lunch with mini bruschette, prosciutto crudo, salame and extravagant little dishes. Nowadays, we have two concepts; the aperitif; an alcoholic or a soft drink served with simple nibbles and the apericena which most times it is an actual dinner. You can choose a fish or a cured meat apericena, however, the fish one is not available everywhere.
See how beautiful can the apericena look below. This would be a raw and cooked fish apericena which I experienced with my family and friends in Anzio, near Rome.
The price of the aperitivo or apericena depends on which one you choose. Typically near Rome, a standard aperitif will be around 4 or 5 euros whilst a fish apericena can start from 15 euro. Still an outstanding value for a drink and a light dinner!
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Alcoholic Italian aperitifs
This is the king of Italian alcoholic aperitifs, especially in the northern part of the country. This cocktail was born between the provinces of Padua and Venice, and has a very characteristic orange colour. The spritz is composed of 2/3 of prosecco (a wine similar to cava), 1/4 aperol (a typical Italian orange-coloured liqueur) and 1/3 of soda. Some people love it and some people can’t drink it, so we advise you to try it to judge for yourself!
Ideally in the Navigli area of Milan or in any of the towns near Venice.
See how to make an authentic Aperol Spritz https://youtube.com/shorts/LQkMzO2gsbU?feature=share
It is Italy’s most famous vermouth, and in fact, it is an alcoholic drink that can be found all over the world. It is a liqueur wine originating from Turin and is characterised on the one hand by a sweet taste and on the other hand by a taste of aromatic herbs. There are four types of Martini, but the most typical are the white Martini and the red Martini. The former, among other herbs, has a vanilla aroma, while the latter contains caramel.
As an aperitif, the Martini can be consumed neat, usually with ice cubes. Alternatively, you can try more elaborate cocktails such as the Martini Royale or the Martini dry. The Royale is made with white Martini, champagne, lime, lime juice and mint leaves. The Martini dry is made with gin and Martini Extra dry, another type of Martini with a drier taste.
It is one of the most famous Italian alcoholic beverages, as it is the basis of many aperitif cocktails par excellence. This herbal drink was created in 1860 and is characterised by its very intense and bitter taste, so much so that it has to be mixed with other ingredients in order to be consumed.
Here are the best alcoholic aperitifs based on Campari
With its 28 proof, it is one of the aperitifs with the highest alcohol content. It has a very strong flavour, as its ingredients are all alcoholic drinks: Campari Bitter, gin and red Vermouth.
This is another version of this famous cocktail that was born in the 70s in Milan. What makes it different from the classic Negroni is that the gin is replaced with Spumante brut, a type of Italian cava. Therefore, it is somewhat lighter than a normal Negroni.
The Americano is also one of the most widely drunk alcoholic aperitifs in Italy and the world. It is quite similar to the Negroni, and differs from it by the use of seltzer (sparkling water) instead of gin. For this reason, it has a lower alcohol content than the Negroni.
The spritz can also be made using Campari instead of Aperol. In this case, its colour and flavour will be more intense.
This is one of the easiest alcoholic aperitifs to prepare at home. It consists of 2/3 orange juice and 1/3 bitter, an alcoholic drink with a bitter taste, such as Campari.
This is an Italian alcoholic aperitif particularly appreciated by women, as it has a delicate taste and a rather low alcohol content. This tasty combination is composed of two main ingredients: prosecco and peach puree.
Similar to the Bellini, but instead of peach puree, strawberry puree is used. It’s really delicious, and it’s very easy to make at home – we’ve made it many times!
This is one of the most fashionable aperitif cocktails. Its recipe is recent, as it was born a few years ago in a bar in the Alto Adige region, in the north of Italy. It is a drink with a light, delicate and fresh taste. Its ingredients are prosecco wine (as you can see, it is very popular as a base for alcoholic aperitifs!), mint leaves and lemon balm syrup. This is an aromatic plant with a lot of flavour, but it is not produced very much on an industrial level. Therefore, it is often substituted with elderberry syrup.
Although not of Italian origin, the mojito is one of the most consumed and loved alcoholic aperitifs by Italians. This cocktail doesn’t need much introduction, but for the few who don’t know it, it consists of white rum, lime juice, mint leaves, brown sugar, soda and ice. Because of its fresh taste, this Cuban cocktail is perfect during the hot Italian summer.
This cocktail of American origin is one of the most popular in recent years. This coincides with the growth of ginger consumption in the last decade, one of its main ingredients. The moscow mule is composed of vodka, a slice of lime, lime juice and ginger beer. This is a drink with a very low alcohol content of less than 0.5 degrees and a ginger flavour. Due to its cool and refreshing taste, it is one of the best alcoholic aperitifs for the summer season.
If mixers are not your thing, you can easily order a simple glass of prosecco or red wine or a nice glass of beer as an aperitif. If you want to taste an Italian brand, order a birra Moretti, a Peroni or a Nastro Azzurro.
Non-alcoholic Italian aperitifs
If you don’t like alcoholic drinks, you don’t have to give up the Italian aperitivo experience. In fact, every bar has its own list of fresh and tasty non-alcoholic aperitifs. Most are made with blends of different fruit juices, and are often refreshing and delicious. Here are some of the non-alcoholic aperitifs that you will most easily find in Italian bars.
If you want to try the most classic of Italian non-alcoholic aperitifs, the first on the list is undoubtedly the crodino. It is an orange-coloured drink made with various aromatic herbs such as cloves, cardamom, nutmeg and coriander. It has fruity and spicy notes, although the dominant flavour is bitter.
This is one of the easiest Italian aperitifs to prepare, as you simply mix cherry and grapefruit juice. Finally, add ice cubes and garnish with a slice of grapefruit. It is ideal if you want to enjoy a healthy cocktail and if you are a lover of slightly acidic flavours.
To make this punch, mix three different types of fruit juices: pineapple, cranberry and orange. Finally, add the soda and leave it to cool in the fridge. Finally, serve it with ice cubes and decorate it with apple and orange slices. As you can see, this is one of the healthiest and most vitamin-rich Italian snacks, so make the most of it!
If you want to try a creamier alcoholic mix, the Banshee is an ideal option for you. To make it, simply place ice, heavy cream, banana cream and white cocoa cream in a blender. With its delicate flavour, it’s sure to win your taste buds over!
This is a fruit cocktail rich in vitamins and very refreshing. The ingredients are crushed ice, pineapple juice, passion flower and orange. After mixing them together, a good splash of lemonade is added at the end. On a hot summer day, it will literally quench your thirst!
All shook up
A drink that mixes the creaminess of milk and natural yoghurt with the sweetness of strawberries and raspberries. All these tasty ingredients are put in a blender for 30 seconds, and at the end, half a teaspoon of honey is added. To garnish, you can cut a strawberry or a mint leaf. For us, it is one of the most complete and delicious alcoholic cocktails!
Now you are ready to order your favourite Italian aperitivo drink maybe when visiting the Bel Paese or at your local Italian restaurant. I am sure there will be one where you live! Enjoy and sip slowly, It’s about quality rather than quantity. Remember Italians are not into a heavily drinking culture, drinking on an empty stomach is not appreciated so keep that in mind if you have Italian guests over or you are taking out your Italian colleagues or clients.