The social ritual of the aperitivo comes from a very ancient tradition.

If you think the “aperitivo” time is a modern trend, invented few years ago as a nice way to hang out with friends and socialise eating and drinking, you’re about to discover something surprising!

The origins of the aperitif date back to the ancient Greece, where the physician Hippocrates prescribed a mix of white wine aromatised with absinthe and rue to patients in need of fighting lack of hunger. Also, the Romans used to drink a mix of wine and honey before their dinner, adding also rosemary and sage.

The purpose was to tease their stomachs and make them hungrier. And that’s exactly what the word aperitivo means, since it comes from the latin verb “aperire”, “to open, to start“.

The modern version of this very ancient ritual was invented in 1786 in Turin, Italy, by Antonio Benedetto Carpano, a fine brewer who invented the recipe for Vermouth, a mixture of white wine and 30 different kinds of aromatic herbs and spices.

This drink had such an unexpected success that in a very short time Carpano was forced to keep his shop in the very central Piazza Castello open 24 hours, in order to satisfy all the customers!

At first customers were people from the upper class, nobility and tradesmen.

They used to meet in the late afternoon to discuss politics, business or sometimes just to have a chat drinking a glass of Vermouth while eating a salted or sweet delicacy. This new habit quickly became more and more popular and had some famous fans among the customers: it was not unusual to see Giuseppe Verdi or Camillo Benso of Cavour enjoying their aperitivo!

Since then this drink was exported in the whole Europe and produced by Cinzano and Martini & Rossi. From this last brand comes the name of the most known and popular aperitif ever, the “Martini”, that can be drunk straight or mixed up with something else to create other very famous cocktails like Negroni and Manhattan.

And yet the reasons for the big success of the aperitif are not only its good taste or the social occasion linked to it. There’s also an economic and practical reason for its success.

In fact, the aperitif is always served with some food, sometimes just appetisers, some other times there’s a whole buffet waiting for customers to enjoy it.

A wide choice of hot and cold courses, salads, pizza, sandwiches are served along with the drinks. The result is a proper and low-cost dinner you cannot resist!

Of course, being cheap and satisfying, the aperitivo is a trend for all the seasons but especially during spring and summer, when it’s possible to enjoy it on a terrace or a patio.

What’s better than relaxing with your friends and watching the sunset with a glass in your hand and some tasty comfort food to share?


Discover more about the Italian culture here!