Discovering aperitifs in Rome
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An aperitif is an alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink drunk before a meal to stimulate the appetite. It can be a cocktail or an unmixed drink accompanied or not by appetisers. Many aperitifs, such as the negroni, are included in the list of the International Bartender Association
The aperitif thus regains its most authentic meaning, that of a drink, usually alcoholic but also non-alcoholic, designed to stimulate the appetite, to be accompanied by the right appetiser, which becomes more refined and based on local ingredients.
A formula in perfect Italian style, an expression of that ‘good living’ that the whole world recognises. Above all, it is a winning formula that is also making its mark on the international bar scene.
Where does this bizarre meaning come from, you may ask? Here’s your answer: in the 4th century BC, the Greek doctor Hippocrates discovered that to relieve his patients’ lack of appetite, he would simply give them a rather bitter-tasting drink made from white wine, dictamum flowers, wormwood and rue, which apparently had incredible beneficial effects.
But the ‘modern’ history of the aperitif, as we know it today and therefore as a social moment and not as a ‘cure’, began a few centuries later, precisely in Turin in 1786. In a small liquor shop, the manager Antonio Benedetto Carpano created what became the aperitif drink par excellence: Vermouth, a delicious wine flavoured with cinchona, which would soon win over the then King of Italy Vittorio Emanuele II.
In fact, it was the latter who named Vermouth with China Carpano, later renamed Punt e Mes (for its extra point and a half of bitterness), the official Court aperitif, as a small glass to drink before sitting down to eat with more taste. From that moment onwards, success was a foregone conclusion: Carpano’s drink spread throughout the cafés of the Savoy city, accompanied by appetisers made with typical Piedmontese products such as cheese, cold cuts and the inevitable bagna càuda.