Written By: Jesse Fell
As we turn to spending our days at home, many of us are left with an empty hole in our hearts where our beloved happy hour once resided. For most Italians under lockdown, that empty void is Aperitivo-shaped! Despite being homebound, I hope you enjoy these tips to creating a simple yet authentic Aperitif at home (while you dream of Italy). Trust me, it's easier than you might think.
Aperitivo in Italy is a ritual at the end of a long day, a time to catch up with friends or colleagues over a drink and a chat before heading home for dinner. The word aperitif refers to opening one's appetite, and for this reason most of the classic cocktails feature an "amaro ", or bitter liqueur or a dry, sparkling prosecco.
If you've traveled to Italy on any of our tours, you know that wine is rarely enjoyed outside of mealtime. Most wines are meant to be paired with food, and this unwritten rule extends to most alcoholic beverages. Whether at home or in the city center ( "in centro" in Italian), a bitter cocktail is typically sipped alongside meats, cheeses, cooked or raw vegetables, nuts, and perhaps some light sandwiches and spreads. But, don't fret about paying extra for the food - after you purchase your cocktail or wine (typically about 12 - 15 Euros), the food is all included !!
Let's rewind for a moment. Although the aperitif has long existed, what is now known as the "true" aperitif was born nowhere else than the glittering, glamorous, metropolitan city of Milan. In the early 1980's, the social scene in Milan started to heat up as more and more professionals flocked to the city pursuing careers in fashion, business, and finance among other fields. As a result, popular restaurants and bars responded with a new approach to the classic aperitif - and so was born the holy Apericena.
Apericena acts as a sort-of "Act I" to your dinner mise-en-scène, going beyond cured meats and cheeses to feature a staggering buffet of artisanal sandwiches, hot or cold pasta, nuts, olives, delicious vegetable dishes, meatballs, risotto, chips, salads, and sometimes much more - all with the purchase of a cocktail or wine! Here are a few tips to creating your own aperitif experience at home, and be sure to pick up these items from our boutique to take it to the next level! Check out Nada's favorite cookbook, Culinaria Italy for more recipes.
As most Italian cocktails are bitter, depending on your pallet you may simply prefer a glass of sparkling prosecco. Tip: to experience the full flavor, pour your prosecco into a regular wine glass instead of a flute. This helps to distribute the perlage (pronounced "pear-laj"), or bubbles, more evenly. Or, prepare one of the classic cocktails below at home! Both the Negroni and Spritz have a citrusy, slightly bitter flavor, with a Spritz being the sweeter option between the two. Here's what you'll need:
· Red Vermouth
The classic method calls for one-part Campari, one-part Gin, and one-part Red Vermouth. This cocktail is typically stirred, not shaken, and poured into a simple glass over ice and garnished with an orange peel.
· Club Soda (or sparkling mineral water)
There are many variations on the spritz, although the general composition is three-parts Prosecco, two-parts Aperol and one-part (or just a splash) of club soda. If you really want to make it old-school, replace the club soda with sparkling mineral water. Cheers!
Now for the star of the show… the FOOD! Until your next trip to Italy, you can make a tasty tagliere, or meat and cheese board, in the comfort of your home with fresh ingredients that's both delicious and true to the classic version.
1. Cured Meats
No aperitif is complete without them! You can get creative, or put out a modest spread; it's completely up to your preference and tastes. A great place to start is with high quality prosciutto, usually found in most grocery stores. Pair with other cured meats like Genoa salami, soppressata, capocollo, mortadella, or your favorites!
Pair our delicious Tuscan Extra Virgin Olive Oil with your favorite cured meats for the perfect Aperitivo snack
2. Get Cheesy!
I couldn't resist a cheesy title for this one! Whether you have your favorite cheeses, or enjoy branching out, good cheese is the key to a perfect Aperitivo. Common culprits range from fresh Mozzarella (perhaps topped with a tomato slice or basil leaf and drizzle of olive oil) to more pungent options like Asiago, Gorgonzola, Pecorino, or even a good Taleggio!
Pair our delicious Antichi Sapori Umbri spreads and honeys with your favorite cheeses for the perfect Aperitivo snack
The perfect thing to round out your Aperitif spread is good bread. Throughout Italy, it's very typical to see the long, thin breadsticks known as Grissini served during Aperitivo as well as Crostini. The best part is, Crostini are very quick and easy to make at home! Slice a baguette (or your favorite crusty bread) very thinly, and place the slices on a baking sheet. Drizzle with high-quality extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt, and place in the oven at 350 ° for about 7-10 minutes, depending on how crispy you like them.
Pair our delicious Tuscan Extra Virgin Olive Oil with your favorite bread for the perfect Aperitif snack
A very typical way to prepare vegetables in Italy involves only 3 ingredients… your favorite vegetable (chopped up), a bit of salt, and extra virgin olive oil! You can try seasonal options such Eggplant (or Aubergine for our UK friends!) Cut up and slightly roasted, asparagus, radicchio, or even potatoes or carrots. For a bit of extra flavor, try drizzling a naturally-infused extra virgin olive oil (such as black or white truffle) and a bit of ground black pepper!
Pair our delicious and Naturally-Infused Umbrian Extra Virgin Olive Oils with your favorite vegetable for the perfect Aperitivo snack
Come try the authentic Milanese Aperitivo and explore northern Italy on our Northern Delights Tour !
We would love to see what you prepare! Share photos of your Aperitivo spread on Facebook or Instagram, and be sure to tag Nada's Italy / @nadasitaly and let us know what you love most about the Italian Aperitivo tradition! Share your favorite story from your travels with us at firstname.lastname@example.org . Enjoy your meal!