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Let’s make the weekend feel like one — these five, easy to make Italian aperitifs, or cocktails, can be your first step.

We’re missing our favourite pizza place and have opened more than enough bottles of vino. As we make yet another batch of pasta, we are resigning to the fact that we have Italian flavours on our mind. If you are struggling like us, these fast-on-the-clock Italian apertitifs can be the easiest way to savour  the country’s flavours.

Aperitifs are at the heart of aperitivo hour in Italian culture. One may consider this the usual happy hour, but it is an integral way of socialising. Essentially between 7:00 and 9:00 pm, aperitivo in Italy is a way to wind down the work day, catch up with friends, swig a favourite cocktail, and simply enjoy the ‘bella vita’. Here are the ones we love.

Negroni

The perfect negroni is tall, sophisticated, and has a personality. Equal parts gin, Campari, and red vermouth poured over ice, with a slice of orange, this cocktail is adored for its simplicity and balance. The sweet and bitter flavours come together to create a refreshing drink that is usually stirred and not shaken. Though the negroni’s origins are somewhat hazy, it is believed that it was invented in Florence in 1919.

An interesting spin on this cocktail is the Negroni Sbagliato, which was a chance accident, and means ‘mistake’ in Italian. In 1972, barman Mirko Stocchetto at the Bar Basso in Milan added sparkling wine instead of the gin by mistake. He quickly realised that this made for a wonderful new dimension to the original, and the cocktail has gone on to win many hearts over the years.

Bellini

italian cocktails

To feel like you are in Venice, sip on the Bellini, made with peach purée and prosecco. Created at the legendary Harry’s Bar in 1945, its blushing pink colour got it its the nomenclature. Named after the Venetian painter Giovanni Bellini, the cocktail has a vivid pink colour that featured in Bellini’s art work.

This alluring cocktail has seen some adaptations. There’s Rossini, with strawberry puree, Puccini, with mandarin juice, and Tintoretto with pomegranate juice, all making for varied libations — just add equal amounts fruit puree and prosecco, and you’re good to go!

Aperol Spritz

The height of Italian chic and the perfect summer cocktail is the Aperol Spritz, a winner all the way. Easy to make–three parts prosecco, two parts Aperol, and a splash of soda water, Aperol Spritz is light and refreshing, unlike Negroni, which can feel a bit loaded. It’s one of our favourite easy to make Italian aperitifs.

Americano

The Negroni may have become a global sensation, but it wouldn’t be fair to forget its prototype, the Americano invented in the 1860s. A combination of campari, sweet vermouth, and soda water, this cocktail was originally named Milano-Torino because of the two primary ingredients: Campari from Milan and sweet vermouth known as ‘Vermouth di Torino’. The cocktail was later renamed because of its popularity among American tourists prior to Prohibition.

Pirlo

What spritz is to Veneto, Pirlo is to Brescia in neighbouring Lombardy. Brescians are proud of this cocktail and will not accept that it is a variation of spritz. The recipe for Pirlo includes one-third still white wine, one-third Campari, one-third sparkling water, and a slice of orange.  The name, Pirlo (meaning ‘fall’ in the dialect of Brescia) comes from the circular movement that campari makes when falling into white wine.

Hero image: Courtesy Yauatcha Mumbai

Gargi Guha

Gargi is a communications professional and loves to dabble in poetry and travel writing. She has a keen interest in Italy, especially the wide array of Italian wines, which are vivid expressions of native grape varietals.