Today I’m feeling a little bit sad because one of my very best friends in Salerno is going back to New Zealand and it will be some time before I get the chance to see her again. To say goodbye though, we went for one of my favourite Italian rituals – the aperitivo!
The aperitivo is not a happy hour. Sometimes it is translated this way, but it is definitely not the same thing… At happy hour you get money off drinks, two for the price of one offers etc. At an aperitivo you may actually find yourself paying more for your drink, but it will be accompanied by food (aha! Now you understand why I like it so much).
Aperitivos are a very Northern thing, and the buffets served there are usually more generous. There are some excellent places with a good selection of nibbles in the South too, including the bar in Syracuse where the above photograph was taken.
The drinks ordered for an aperitivo are usually not highly alcoholic as the spirits are saved for after dinner, although there are a few cocktails designed specifically for the pre-dinner munchies. Generally you can choose between alcolici and analcolici; respectively alcholic and non alcoholic. Wine is a great choice, as are the bottled aperitivi – San Bitter, Aperol Spritz, Martini Soda ecc.
Today I went for one of my favourites, the negroni sbagliato:
The Negroni Sbagliato, or “wrong Negroni” is a variation on the traditional, and for my taste too strong, Negroni, which is a mix of equal parts red Martini, Campari and gin. The Sbagliato version uses prosecco instead of gin, making it much lighter on the alcohol front as well as generally sweeter.
Aperitivo buffets vary from simple bowls of crisps and pretzels, like today’s version, and full on buffets of foods ranging from pasta to cold cuts, breads to salads, pizza to bruschetta. There is a wonderful place in Milan on the canals called the Movida which serves (or used to) a vast selection of cocktails with a huge buffet which could put some restaurants to shame – as much as you can eat for the sum of six Euros! They can afford to just because the drinks are too good just to stick to one, even on a school night… especially the frozen strawberry daiquiri!
Aperitivos are not only a great social activity in Italy: they can easily be recreated for a cocktail party at home. All you need is some platters of nosh and some decent bottles of wine! Stay tuned for more suggestions on pulling this off at home next week.