One of the many, many civilised things about Italy is the Aperitivo habit. The idea of starting the night with a glass of something very cold and bubbly accompanied by a few nibbles makes perfect sense to me. For the unenlightened, the Aperitivo ritual is essentially pre-dinner drinks with some complimentary nibbles or “stuzzichini” – all designed to stimulate the appetite in advance of dinner. The antipasti is free, although you often pay a premium for a drink at an Aperitivo bar, which seems fair enough. The drink of choice is usually something slightly bitter like Aperol or Campari and the nibbles range in complexity from a bowl of olives to great platters of cheeses, meats, salads, bruschetta, pizza….well, you get the idea.
You know, I think we unwittingly instigated our own form of Aperitivo when I was a poverty stricken student many years ago. This took the form of starting the evening with a few pints at “Judge Tindals”, a Chelmsford pub which handed out bowls of free chipolatas and chips if you stayed there long enough. Oh, the glamour… I pity the poor students of Italy… missing out on the BOGOF lager and low-budget-sausages and leading a much less glamourous existence sipping Prosecco and nibbling aged pecorino.
And if they are really lucky they’ll be drinking an Aperol Spritz. We don’t seem to have caught onto the Aperol Spritz here in the UK but it is massive in Italy and taking off in the US too apparently. Aperol is a delicious bitter-orange liqueur which is delicious simply mixed with soda and served with a slice of orange.
But it is at its best in an Aperol Spritz, the cocktail which originated in northern Italy but seems pretty ubiquitous across the summer drinking establishments of Italy. It barely needs a recipe but here we go anyway:
1 part Aperol
1 part Prosecco
A splash of soda
Slice of orange and a green olive
Fill an ice filled tumbler a third of the way up the glass with Prosecco. Add another third of Aperol and then a good splash of soda water. Garnish with the strange orange and olive combo and enjoy, ideally al fresco. Chipolatas optional.