Italians take their aperitif and digestif drinks very seriously!
The thing that I quickly learned when I arrived in Italy is how much they love their businesslike trip to the bar on their way home, for a restorative drink. Only yesterday I was in one such little Enoteca Bar with my daughter (she was indulging in her new favorite beverage; thick, soupy hot chocolate!), at the bustling hour of 5pm when an elderly Italian man entered in a flurry, quickly knocked back a glass of prosecco, before leaving with similar gusto!
Something I got turned onto my first night in Rome was an Aperol Spritz. I fell in love with this concoction the moment it hit my lips. I have always loved having a “before dinner” drink. It feels like the proper way to celebrate the end of a good, or hard day, and also helps to ring-in the evening.
This aperitif contains prosecco, and a liqueur called Aperol. Aperol is a luminous red liquid made primarily of the ingredients bitter orange, gentian, rhubarb and quinine. I was intrigued that it contained quinine which has been used medicinally for centuries as a cure for malaria, and, is tooted to be an effective muscle relaxant. It is also responsible for giving aperol its bitter edge.
This all made perfect sense to me, and I embraced it wholeheartedly when I was presented with a glass on my first cold and snowy night in Rome.
I am now settled in Cortona, and have been drinking it every night since!
It is super refreshing, and has the loveliest zingy effervescence. I was able to find it pretty easily here (the local grocer!), and quite inexpensive. My friend Shawn told me that it is harder to find elsewhere, and can be up to 3 times the price.
At the risk of sounding like a frivolous spendthrift, I think you should buy it anyway and have a cocktail party!
Drop about 4 ice cubes into a large wine glass and fill with 2 measures of aperol (or, if not measuring, pour until the Aperol just coves the ice), followed by 3 measures of prosecco, (about 6oz), and top with 1 measure of seltzer water.