Since our current reality has been slightly shifted, we seem to have forgotten how to relax and unwind after a busy work week. With everything online now and most of us working in some sort of home office, the idea of cuddling up in front of the tv, watching YouTube videos, or scrolling through our phones has never seemed as exhausting before. Spending all this copious amount of time online and in front of a screen can be tiresome. So, how can we experience those evenings we use to have sipping away at a few cold beverages, sharing laughs with our close friends or family celebrating the end of a workweek at your local bar or restaurant and not have it zoomed in to you?
Now, what if I told you that Europeans have been harbouring a secret that could bring that vivacious reality back to your life in a COVID friendly matter? Introducing you to the Aperitivo.
The Aperitivo is an Italian tradition that’s often an event in itself before you go on to have your dinner. It includes small salty hors d’oeuvres, refreshing beverages and good vibes all around. Since we can’t travel, why not bring a little bit of that Italian spirit home to you and you can do it with just these 3 easy additions to your evening plan.
Traditionally a spritz has been a refreshing bitter-ish beverage with the magic ratio being
1 part club soda
2 parts of either Aperol or Campari
3 parts prosecco garnished with an orange.
The reason for this refreshing bitter beverage was the Italian way to “prepare and cleanse” the palate before dinner, with the bitter flavours of orange believed to open up the taste buds for an even more amazing culinary experience later on. But with the popularity of the Spritz sweeping over Europe, you can find Aperol or Campari bars just around every corner. Still, not all nations had as much of a loving attachment to the bitter flavours. An example of one such country was Austria, with the busy ski season coming up and their sweeter pallet, the call for something similar yet “better” was imperative. Their version of the Spritz substituted the bitter liquor for Austrian white wine, and ever since then, the possibilities have been endless for different modifications.
Here you can find a link to 9 bubbly Spritzes that are sure to knock the socks off of every one of your guests. (The ginger-lime Spritz is a crowd favourite!)
Charcuterie is just the fancy term for a plethora of different salty snacks served on a board. The fun thing about it is there are no rules for it! Make it salty; make it jammed packed with sweets, or make it just crackers. It’s just about what you and your guests like to snack on, but if you want a classic Italian charcuterie, it is imperative to have the salty with the choice of something sweet that pairs well with your Aperol Spritz.
- Green or Black Olives. Sundried tomatoes. Anything that harbours a salty oily flavour but olives are the most popular.
- Prosciutto, Salami, or Ham. All cured meats are fun to add for a change in flavour and texture. I’ve included the spicy Spanish sausage chorizo on my spreads before as a salami substitute, so just play around with it and see what’s locally available.
- CHEESE! For the love of God, please don’t forget the cheese. A good rule of thumb is having 3 different textures of cheese. My favourite has always been pecorino romano cheese and a good brie as they pair well with similar fruity jams. Medium cheese can be as simple as adding gouda, depending on your guest list; young kids usually devour that one and like the texture.
- Fruity Jams. Although this isn’t very Italian, it has become more of a staple since tourism and the need for something to balance its salty flavours. Italians are known for staying true to what’s in-season, so for a summery Aperitivo, a fig jam pairs beautifully.
- Fruits or Tomatoes. Staying in the theme of what’s in season. Adding a refreshing flavour to combat the salt. Italians will often sneak a few freshly picked figs onto the plate during the summertime and, for an all-year-round experience, include smaller, sweeter tomatoes.
Having other fillers around the board like crackers, smaller breadsticks or nuts is a good idea since we don’t all have the Italian pallet of eating cheese on its own. Adding some sort of raw veggie spread with a dip is more of a North American addition, but it’s still a good one so don’t feel restricted by the recommendations above. Then decorating and presenting these spreads in small eclectic bowls or on a beautiful wooden plank is up to you.
Finally, the necessary thing to include to any good Aperitivo is a good DJ. Suppose you have a hard time picking the music fit for the Aperitivo vibe, no worries. Spotify has countless excellent playlists to give the right mood for your evening, and you can find my favourite one linked below.
The Aperitivo is a tradition that should become the new way we experience the Friday night drinks at the local bar until we can return safely. Still building the personal connections with loved ones, enjoying a good drink and snacks, and, most importantly, helping each other get through these strange times. This experience shouldn’t be limited to those globetrotters lucky enough to have travelled the Amalfi Coast before lockdowns. Being together is a past time we all know and love, and the Italians just did it with a fun twist.
How would you do like the Austrians and create your own Spritz recipe? Leave a comment below telling me how your Aperitivo night went and what changes and additions you would make!
Grazie Mille and I’ll hear from you soon,
Ciao Mi Amore, Grab that sparkling wine and make something new out of it this weekend with this Italian secret!
How to take back your Weekends with this Italian tradition!