APERITIVO TIME – what should I drink?

As you certainly know, Italy is the homeland of the famous APERITIVO, a happy moment at the end of the working day. Everyone loves this because it’s the perfect image of the Italian lifestyle: chilling and enjoying good food and drinks. Especially Milan is famous for its “happy hour” tradition: lots of people gather – well, used to before Covid-19 – along the Navigli and spend time together in one of the numerous bars. These often offer the buffet formula, which brings the aperitivo to an “apericena” (aperitivo + dinner). It’s such a typical habit among locals that we couldn’t forget to include an Aperitivo tour with us! (you can find it here).

Now the question is: what do Italians drink during an aperitivo? Here’s a practical guide about the most famous Italian aperitivo cocktails!



Spritz is probably the king of the Italian aperitivo. Its ingredients are: Aperol, white wine (Prosecco) and selz (or sparkling water). This drink has a curious origin: Austrian troops used to thin Venetian wine with some water, since it was too strong for them. This gave the name “spritz”, from the German verb “spritzen” (sprinkle). The red color of the cocktail comes from Aperol, a sweet, lightly alcoholic drink that was born in Padua in 1919. The “Aperol spritz” as we know it nowadays comes from the Veneto region and was invented during the 1920s – 1930s. It’s so iconic that it is part of the IBA (International Bartenders Association). The original recipe also includes some ice cubes and an orange slice as decoration. This is the perfect drink if you want to try something sweet, lightly alcoholic and super Italian!



Not all white wines are the same and Italians know this! The aperitivo wine is without doubts the famous Prosecco: it’s a sparkling or semi-sparkling wine (there’s also the still version) from Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions. A glass of cold Prosecco is the best option if you’re looking for a glass of good, tasty Italian wine.



Campari is a red colored alcoholic drink by the Italian “Gruppo Campari“. People add it to several cocktails: it’s a key ingredient of Campari Spritz, Campari Soda, Americano and Negroni. It is a colored bitter you can recognize because of its brilliant color and iconic packaging. Campari Spritz is the same as Aperol Spritz, with the difference that there’s campari instead of Aperol. Campari Soda is the lightest: it’s simple Campari with soda water. Americano and Negroni are two more complex cocktails, read below their descriptions!



Negroni is a popular Italian cocktail with gin, red Vermouth and Campari. It was born in Florence in 1920s by Camillo Negroni: he asked the bartender of a famous cafè to strengthen his favorite cocktail, the Americano, by adding gin rather than soda water. “Negroni sbagliato” (“wrong negroni”) is a modified version of this cocktail that was created in the 1960s at Bar Basso in Milan. The difference between the new one and the real Negroni is the Brut sparkling wine which replaces the gin.



Americano is the father of Negroni. It was first served at Bar Gasparre Campari (in Milan) in the 1860s and it was a modern version of the “Milano-Torino cocktail” (an old drink American tourists used to order). It is so popular and typical that it is in the IBA register, too! Choose it if you like a bitterer and drier taste, with a medium-low alcoholic percentage (16°)



Finally, the last popular Italian aperitivo drink: Hugo. Since 2005 it has been an alternative to the Venetian Spritz and it quickly spread beyond the borders of South Tyrol. Its ingredients are: prosecco, elderflower syrup, sparkling water and mint leaves. It is a very fresh and light cocktail, the perfect solution if you look for something sweet and not too strong.


These are all the most popular Italian alcoholic aperitivo drinks, but of course they’re not the only ones! And if you look for something alcohol-free you can always have a coke, an iced tea or whatever you like!

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Authors: Aurora Lovato, Gloria Papetti