The History Of Italy's Happy Hour, The Aperitivo

The word aperitivo originates from the Latin phrase meaning "to open" — the idea being that both stomach and appetite require a bit of opening before you start digging into any main course, according to Tuscany Now & More. Aperitivo is a firmly rooted tradition, further ingrained by economic appeal. As told to Zero, one enterprising Italian noted that the more his customers ate, the more they drank, so it made sense to provide food alongside servings of Cinzano and Campari

The origins of the aperitivo date back to fifth century Greece, where the father of medicine, Hippocrates, blended sweet white wine with absinthe (via Greggio). This wine was an early form of vermouth, notes Agora Vermouth, and was believed to cure ailments. In time, drinks enjoyed before dinner expanded beyond the medicinal, with royalty like King Vittorio Emanuele II gulping spiced drinks before more substantial plates of food were placed on the table (per Wine Pair). Yet it wasn't until the 19th century, in a northern Italian city named Turin, that the idea of pre-supper libations really took off. 

An easily embraced tradition

The area surrounding Turin was the perfect backdrop to unleash aperitivo's full appeal: a history of winemaking, herbs sold by local farmers, and hungry workers rushing to cafes after long days on the job (per Travel + Leisure). It was in Turin that Antonio Benedetto Carpano began making vermouth from wine and herbs, and the concoction became the region's claim to fame (per Italy We Love You). 

As a result, many aperitivo drinks include vermouth, as the rest of Italy wanted to put their own stamp on recipes: Venice poured the Aperol Spritz, Florence served up the Negroni, and in Milan, a barman created the Sbagliato when he mistook sparkling wine for gin (per VICE). To this day, the exact recipe for Campari remains a secret, a concoction created in 1860 by Gaspare Campari, whose tinkerings with herbs and bitters resulted in that secretive red-hued spirit (per The Manual). To savor aperitivo at home, crack open a bottle of prosecco and put together a meat and cheese board. Salute!