A Guide to Italian Pre-Dinner Drinks


The pre-dinner drink in Italy is one of my favorite diversions. I’m usually tired from a full day of activities—whether hiking or visiting art museums—and having a unique drink at a quiet table allows me to reflect on all I’ve done. My father once said, “When traveling, your mind is three days behind your body.” I’ve found lemon splash-1that this is often the case, but that an hour-long rest at a relaxed café can help the mind catch up with the body. Fortunately, Italy’s selection of pre-dinner drinks, known as aperitivi in Italian, while short, does offer unique cordials designed to restore the senses.

Italians never drink without food nearby, and the price of one pre-dinner drink may include a large buffet. Click here for more on Italy’s aperitivo tradition.  One of the first pre-dinner drinks that I stumbled across is still my favorite: White Vermouth. While it is low on alcohol content, this mildly sweet vermouth, when Campariserved over ice with a fresh slice of lemon, is silky, simple, and powerfully refreshing. Unlike the more common red and dry vermouths that we usually find in the United States, white vermouth has a soft, smooth flavor when sipped alone. It is a little lemony with a hint of vanilla, and when served on a hot day, it hits the spot like nothing else.

You’ll often find Italians drinking this next drink with breakfast, but I find it better suited for dinner: Campari and Soda. Campari is a bitters, known as amaro in Italian, which means that it is a liquor distilled from bitter herbs, aromatic plants, and fruit. While many bitters are dark in flavor and high in alcohol, making them great for post-dinner drinks, Campari is light and playful. Bitters are known for stimulating the appetite too. A Campari with soda is bubbly, bright red, and always served with a juicy slice of orange.

NegroniPerhaps the most famous Italian mixed drink is the Negroni. The main components are gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari, to which a slice of orange is added. If you are looking for something powerful, a Negroni is the way to go. A playful alternative to the strong Negroni is the Negroni Sbagliato, which literally means the Negroni mistake, in which Prosecco is substituted for gin. The drink was invented in Milan, when a novice bartender made the mistaken substitution.

Prosecco is a light, bubbly white wine, and is itself an optimal pre-dinner drink. It is usually dry and, at its best, filled with flavors of peach or caramel. Often referred to as a pick me up because of it’s spirit-raising ability, Prosecco wines have recently been awarded a higher position in Italy’s government controlled standards listing. Most wine-industry specialists are predicting a rise in price, so enjoy it now while it’s still relatively cheap.

Written by Mattie Bamman for EuropeUpClose.com


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