Aperitivo Hour: Italy’s Best Tradition
Happy hour, apero, aperitivo…whatever you want to call that pre-dinner excuse for a refreshing drink…it’s the best time of the day, especially as the days grow longer and backyard patios warm up. To end a workday and simultaneously gear up for dinner with a light, fresh drink is one of Italy’s most loved traditions. The thing that’s special about aperitivo versus american happy hour is what you drink and how it prepares you for the evening’s future indulgences. Aperitivo comes from the word aperitivi which means “opener,” in this case referring to the opening of a meal. The claim, credited to vermouth producer Carpano, is that the unique blend of herbs in an aperitivo readies the stomach to enjoy a proper meal.
While in Italy you’d traditionally swing my one of many local haunts to have a light drink and snack with your friends, aperitivo is very much doable at home (with the bonus of free refills!). As the weather improves, it’s really almost a necessity to stock your fridge with all the makings of your own signature aperitivo. We have a few favourites, some new and some old, that might be the perfect aperitivo for you to sip on this summer.
Delinquente Wine Co. is located in the hot, dry region of Riverland in Australia. Because of the arid conditions, Delinquente works with grape varieties that typically find their home in the south of Italy. This small batch aperitivo brings together everything good about a classic Italian aperitivo and Aussie’s booming natural wine industry. Bizzarro is made by lacing citrus fruits and organically grown botanicals with skin fermented white wine that is then fortified. It has a touch of sweetness that balances the bitterness of the botanicals. The use of skin fermented wine, amps up the aromatics.
The folks at Bizzarro recommend making a Bizzarro Spritz with two ounces of Bizzarro Aperitivo, 3 ounces of your favourite Pét-Nat (we recommend the Wildman Astro Bunny), a splash of soda, and a sprig of thyme. We are also fond of Bizzarro Aperitivo with a splash of Casamara Club’s Onda botanical soda.
A true classic, Cocchi Americano was created in 1891 by Gulio Cocchi. It has been produced ever since and is a key ingredient in many famous cocktails including the Vesper and the Corpse River #2. Cocchi Americano has a white wine base that has been infused with a collection of botanicals including artemisia, cinchona, bitter orange peel, and elderflower. While delicately bitter, this aperitivo is true to its vinous character. It is more delicate and fresh than some of its expatriates in the aperitivo category.
While there is an endless list of cocktails or variations (like the White Negroni) that showcase how tasty Cocchi Americano is, our favourite easy to enjoy it is over ice with a splash of soda, garnished with a spritz from an orange peel. Aperitivo with ice and soda is considered the
“American” way to enjoy this Italian tradition, and the Cocchi Americano references this excellent habit.
Denis Muni and Beppe Ronco, both having spent their careers making Vermouths and Aperitivos, developed the innovative recipes for the very modern Hotel Starlino products.In the Rosé, they wanted to create a fresh and natural flavor that mixed with tonic, soda, sparkling wine or was delicious on the rocks. Hotel Starlino Rosé Aperitivo has a trebbiano wine base that uses a wide range of botanicals including wormwood, savoury, elderflower, coriander, clove, thyme, and sweet orange peel (to name a few in a long list). After the botanicals are extracted and infused into the base wine, it is aged for six months in stainless steel before bottling. This delicious aperitivo screams summer. It is equal parts juicy and refreshing. Flavourful enough to sip alone, it makes for a great afternoon cocktail.
We suggest trying the Starlino Tonic this weekend. Pour yourself 1 part Of hotel Starlino Rosé Aperitivo then add 3 parts Fever Tree Tonic Water, add a few cubes of ice and garnish with a slice of pink grapefruit. So refreshing!
Located in Montreal, QC Les Spiritueux Iberville was founded in 2017 by Mario D’Amico who is also the master distiller. He pays homage to his grandfather, who immigrated to Quebec in 1953, by crafting Italian-inspired spirits from local Quebecois ingredients and flavours unique to La Belle Province. This project is a true ode to both Mario’s Italian immigrant heritage and the bounty of Quebec. Amermelade, a play on marmalade, is chock full of juicy orange, bergamot, and grapefruit flavours. There is a touch of ginger and seabuckthorn that adds dimension and character. flavours. Like we said, whether you call it apéro, aperitivo, or happy hour, be sure to curve out some time for indulging in Amermelade Aperitivo this spring.
This delicious aperitivo was made for a spritz. Les Spiritueux Iberville recommends Italian bubbles like Vaporetto Prosecco to top up the glass after adding 2 ounces of Amermelade Aperitivo. You should definitely give the classic green olive garnish a try.
Founded in 1870, Meletti has generally been known for their anise based liqueurs, but more recently have dabbled in bitter liqueurs that the booze industry quickly fell in love with. The recipe for the 1870 Bitter is one that was long lost until recently, which the family adapted and released a few years ago. The 1870 Bitter uses a combination of sweet and bitter orange and a complex blend of herbs which are fortified to 25% ABV to create this gently bitter aperitivo. It has flavours of clove, grapefruit, bitter orange, and ginger.
We love this aperitivo as a perfect alternative to Campari. A touch more bitter than the other aperitivos on this list, it makes an extremely complex, rosy-hued Negroni. Pour yourself equal parts vermouth (we love Carpano Antica Vermouth), gin (Sheringham Seaside is a staff favourite), and Meletti 1870 Bitter Aperitivo and stir over ice. For a lower alcohol version, we love swapping the gin for soda and making an Americano Cocktail.