Home > What is Aperitivo? A guide to the Italian pre-meal tradition

What is Aperitivo? A guide to the Italian pre-meal tradition

If you’ve ever treated yourself to a bottle of Aperol or ordered an Aperol Spritz from your favourite bar, you’ve most likely come across the word “aperitivo”. In fact, the word itself is splashed right across our iconic orange bottle. But what is aperitivo?

While it’s best known as the Italian term for a pre-dinner drink, there is more to the aperitivo tradition than meets the eye. Read on to find out more about its cultural roots and meaning, including the origins of the word and how Aperol Spritz became the best loved A Italiano of our time.

What is an aperitivo?

An aperitivo is a drink you enjoy before your evening meal to help you work up an appetite. It traditionally has a low percentage of alcohol with a bittersweet flavour and slight fizz that opens up and refreshes the palate. *cough* Aperol Spritz *cough*

But the aperitivo experience is also a special ritual within everyday Italian culture. It marks a moment of the day to come together and catch up with friends, family or colleagues over a few light Italian bites and drinks.

This pre-dinner tradition has been around for centuries, and still continues across Italy today. From the Venetian canals to the piazzas of Milan, groups of friends will often meet at their local bar or bacaro at sunset – to catch up, enjoy some small plates of cicchetti, and toast ‘Cin cin!’ to one another.

Where does ‘aperitivo’ come from?

The word aperitivo comes from the Latin term ‘aperire’, which means ‘to open.’ This evolved into the familiar French word ‘aperitif,’ and then the Italian ‘aperitivo.’

No one’s sure who made the first aperitivo toast, but as it’s evolved, it’s become more about getting together with friends and family to enjoy one another’s company than it is about the drinks.

What we do know is that it started as a northern Italian tradition – and still today, Milan has one of the best aperitivo scenes in the country. But it’s also enjoyed elsewhere across Italy and beyond, with Rome, Naples and Florence all having a great aperitivo atmosphere.

What time do Italians have aperitivo?

Aperitivo is usually enjoyed between 6pm and 8pm – right before your main evening meal. This is what is best known as aperitivo hour.

Whether you’re sipping and socialising after work or on the weekends, aperitivo hour is not to be missed. You might even find that certain bars offer special discounts during this time – whether it’s half-price drinks or two for one on Aperol Spritz – so you can make the most of aperitivo.

Is aperitivo the same as Aperol?

No, aperitivo and Aperol are not exactly the same. Aperitivo is the general term for the beloved Italian pre-dinner drink ritual, while Aperol Spritz is considered a popular type of aperitivo. So, while the two go hand-in-hand, they’re not considered the same thing.

All about Italy’s favourite aperitivo

Of course, it comes as no surprise that we think Aperol is the best aperitivo. But it turns out others agree too! Aperol is widely considered to be Italy’s favourite aperitivo – and has been for over a century now. So, how did this happen?

Well, after inheriting their father’s liqueur company in 1912, the Barbieri Brothers set out to make a drink inspired by the French aperitifs they’d enjoyed on vacation. After seven years of experimentation, the secret recipe was complete, and Aperol made its first appearance at the Trade Fair in Padua in 1919.

With a uniquely bittersweet taste and signature orange hue, it wasn’t long until the orange sensation took off in Italy and across the globe – particularly when served with Prosecco and soda to create our signature cocktail, the Aperol Spritz.

Who invented the Aperol Spritz?

No one bacaro can lay claim to creating the Aperol Spritz as we know it today, but it’s likely that it has its roots in the Spritz Veneziano. The Spritz Veneziano was first made in Venice in the 1920s, inspired by 18th century visitors from the Habsburg Empire who would ask for ‘ein Sprizen,’ or a splash of mineral water, to be added to local wines.

The Aperol Spritz pays tribute to this history with its final splash of soda, but our signature 3-2-1 ratio with Aperol and Prosecco is truly original. So, it’s no wonder word started to travel about our refreshing orange aperitif.

Soon, the Aperol Spritz was enjoying international success from the Italian canals to the Governor’s Ball in the United States. And this legacy lives on more than 100 years later in your favourite bars, local restaurants and at-home aperitivo hours.

So, raise your glass to years of tradition and celebrate the joy of life that comes from being together.

How to get the aperitivo experience at home

While a trip to Venice or Milan might offer the most authentic aperitivo experience, you can also enjoy the aperitivo ritual right here in the UK.

You’ll find a wide range of restaurants, bars and Italian eateries that offer their own aperitivo menus for your next early evening catch up. We’ve even created a handy list of some of our favourite aperitivo hours featuring Aperol Spritz.

And if you’re up to hosting, it’s easy to create a simple aperitivo atmosphere at home. Just stock up on your Aperol Spritz essentials – Aperol, Prosecco, soda, ice and oranges – and prepare a few bite-sized snacks, such as crostini, olives, cured meats, arancini and more. Salute!

Ready to make your own aperitivo?

Our recipe for the perfect Aperol Spritz is as easy as 3-2-1 – literally! Check out the full recipe for a list of ingredients and measurements you’ll need to follow.

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