Happy hour is a real thing in the good ol’ USA. I’ve gone to a few, as I’m assuming most Americans have in their lifetimes. I mean, cheaper drinks after a long work day is just really good marketing idea. But here’s the thing… Happy hours don’t exist in Rome. And if you do see “happy hour” being promoted at the bar you’re thinking about going into, you’re about to enter a tourist trap hole.
But fear not! Instead, here in Rome we keep calm and aperitivo. Say it with me. Aperitivo. Literally meaning “to open.” Pre-dinner drinks and seriously mouthwatering appetizers from meant to open the palate, from 6-9pm everyday. A chance to relax, socialize, do some serious people watching, nibble on fresh olives, chips, smoked salmon, deli meats and a thousand variations on crostinis and bruschettes and all while sipping your glass of an Italian mixed drinks dry. A classic Italian aperitivo ranges from 6 to 10 euro and even be a dinner replacement if the buffet is stocked. And here’s the best part… everyone does it.
So what kind of drink should you order at your first aperitivo? I’m here to help!
- Spritz: a mix of soda, prosecco, sparkling white wine and Campari (a bitter, reddish liqueur fusion of herbs and fruit in alcohol and water) on ice. It’s the pretty orangey-red drink on this blog post!
- Negroni: a cocktail of gin, red, semi-sweet vermouth, and Campari and garnished with an orange peel. Fun fact, the first reports of this mixed drink came from Orson Welles (you know, that guy who directed Citizen Kane) who said “the bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other.” There are tons of variations of this drink if you’re not into bitter cocktails. Like…
- Negroni Sbagliato: imagine a Negroni but with prosecco (a sparkling white wine) instead of gin and a sweeter vermouth. A bit bubblier and has less bite. Another variation…
- Americano: a Negroni minus the gin and replaced with soda.
- Prosecco or Spumante: sparkling white wines typically priced cheaper than a cocktail. This is a great option if you’re not a mixed drink fan or want to pinch your pennies.
- Bellini: a great choice if you like a fruity little drink. Made with Prosecco and peach juice or puree, this concoction originated in Venice, where its pink hue reminded its creator of a famous toga painted by Giovanni Bellini. It was also one of Hemingway’s favorites, so what’s not to like?
The most wonderful aspect of Roman nightlife is just that it goes on and on every. single. night. and every person (I’m talking early twenties to mid eighties) takes part in it. It’s a tradition that I don’t see happening in America anytime soon. 10pm at home? Primetime TV and getting ready for bed. 10pm here? Sitting down to dinner. Enjoying your time, taking the moment to relish and take in the buzz of everything going around you, appreciating food and drink and more so the people around you…. that’s Rome. It’s an entirely different perspective. And it’s a good one.