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There is this vision of Italy: Sundrenched piazzas, Italians dressed in the latest fashion, and chairs and tables from all the local cafes spilling out onto the street. And on those tables are the infinitely cool and classic aperitivo cocktails that Italians are known for.
When visiting Italy you are going to want to tap into this Italian moment, live like a local, and to do this you need to know what aperitivo cocktails the Italians are drinking. And that is where we come in! This article will break down the top three aperitivo cocktails that you need to know. But first, what on earth is aperitivo??
Aperitivo is a beautiful time in Italy from around 5-7pm when you can sip on a cocktail and have little bites to eat. It is very similar to Spanish tapas. In most places in Italy, you order a drink and then have a buffet open to you to grab little snacks like cured meats, cheese, fritti (fried foods like fried olives and zucchini flowers), and even pasta and pizza depending on where you go! The idea of aperitivo cocktails is to open up your appetite for your coming meal; think of aperitif cocktails in France. Eating is very important in Italy so indulging in an aperitivo cocktail or two is imperative for being prepared for an Italian dinner 😉
So now that you know what aperitivo is, what should you be drinking??
The Top Three Aperitivo Cocktails You Need to Know!
Campari & Soda
We are going to start off with probably the most classic of Italian aperitivo cocktails, the Campari & soda. The Italians and Roman love their bitter aperitivo cocktails. This cocktail is quite simple as it is just Campari, soda water, ice and an orange twist!
You might be asking yourself what is Campari? Simply put is a popular bitter Italian liqueur classified as an aperitif. It is made of an infusion of herbs and fruit including the very Italian ingredient chinotto, which is a type of small bitter orange, and alcohol of course! It was invented in 1860 in Novara, Italy by Gaspare Campari (OMG I LOVE HIS NAME!) and it has continued to be a very popular bitter around Italy to this day.
The cocktail of Campari & soda is slightly bitter, with a hint of sweetness and viscosity from the Campari and bright citrus from the orange while the soda water and ice cool you right off, making this a perfect drink for the hot mid-summer afternoons!
Moving on, the Negroni will be our next aperitivo cocktail and is perfect for a fall Italian afternoon, think crunchy leaves, quiet cobblestone streets, strains of music in the air and a Negroni in hand as the sun slowly sets on another perfect fall day.
The Negroni is the go to cocktail during the aperitivo hour in Rome and it builds off the Campari & Soda. The drink is fairly simple to make as well as it is just equal parts Campari, gin, and sweet vermouth served over ice. It is then garnished with an orange slice.
All of the flavors come together to make a refreshing and very satisfying cocktail. You get bitter from the Campari, the floralness of the gin, and the vermouth adds a nice touch of sweetness.
All you have to do is head out with the locals to an aperitivo, order yourself a Negroni and you will be feeling like an Italian before you know it.
Out of the three cocktails, Ash and I probably drink this one the most. It is hard not to drink it as it is so refreshing during the hot Mediterranean summers. All you have to do is take a wine glass and then fill it with ice, a few ounces of Aperol, and then top it with prosecco. Don’t forget to toss a slice of orange in it and you then have the perfect summer drink.
Aperol is another of Italy’s famous bitter aperitifs. Aperol has a bitter orange flavor and is sweeter than Campari. So, if Campari has too much bitterness for you then Aperol will be your best friend in the world of aperitivo cocktails.
Everything about the Aperol Spritz though is amazing and in our humble opinion should be drunk throughout the day. We have spent many long afternoons with several Aperol Spritz, games of Scopa, and little dishes of olives. Can you think of a more idyllic afternoon?
There you have all of our favorite aperitivo cocktails to enjoy while you are visiting the ancient cities of Italy. If you are spotted drinking any of these drinks you will be fitting right in with locals. We promise you because these are as Italian as you can get and the Italians love them. So don’t forget to drink like a local while you are in Italy with these aperitivo cocktails!
Want to make these cocktails at home? Check out our recipe guide for all three cocktails here!
And don’t forget the bar tools! Here is what we use to make these cocktails at home:
Boston Shaker Tins – We love using metal tins for shaking up cocktails or just using one to stir up a cocktail like the Negroni to get it ice cold!
Cocktail Mixing Spoon – We use our mixing spoons all the time to mix up cocktails and James Bond may want his martinis shaken not stirred but you don’t want your Aperol Spritz shaken or you lose the bubbles!
Fancy Ice Cube Silicon Molds – Fancy ice cubes really make your cocktails look that much more professional and its fun! (Pro tip: boil your water before you make it into ice so that it is crystal clear)
Old Fashioned Glasses – These glasses are perfect for your Negroni or Campari and Soda. Seriously, old fashioned glasses should be a staple of your bar equipment!
Cocktail Peeler – The peel of the orange is not just for decor but that doesn’t mean you don’t want it to look pretty! Be sure to invest in a solid peeler in order to get those beautiful orange peels for your Negroni and Campari and Soda.
Wine Glasses with a Large Bowl – This may sound weird, but wine glasses made for Beaujolais with a large bowl are perfect for your Aperol Spritz. Invest in some large ones so you have enough room for all the ingredients plus enough ice to keep you cool on a hot day! (Bonus: These are great for gin and tonics too!)
One last thing! Don’t forget to pick up a copy of “Eat Local in Rome” to learn all about the Roman kitchen and where you can find their famous dishes so you can eat, drink, and live like a local! You can pick up your e-book today right here!
Heading to Italy soon? Don’t forget to buy travel insurance! Sure you may not use it but its always good to have. We recommend World Nomads which we have been using for years and have always made us feel secure as we travel around the world!
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