The aperitivo......

The aperitivo

It’s early evening, you’ve finished work and are ready to wind down. Perhaps you’re also a tiny bit hungry, or, at least, are at that point where you start imagining what you’ll be eating for dinner. You’re on your way home and perhaps it’s a place on the way, your regular, where you know you’ll bump into a friend or two and a drink is in order, along with some nibbles. Nothing that will ruin your appetite for dinner, of course, anzi (quite the contrary), something that will help it along. That’s the aperitivo.

The word “aperitivo” is the name for both the ritual of going out for a pre-dinner drink, as well as the sort of drink that you would probably have at such a ritual. “Aperitivo” comes from the Latin word meaning “to open” and in Italian you still describe the effect of something appetising – that sensation you get when you smell garlic sizzling in butter or your favourite cake baking in the oven – as something that literally “opens your stomach.” That’s the idea behind the Italian aperitivo, a little something to encourage you to feel hungry, to get the juices flowing, if you will, so you can fully enjoy your upcoming meal.

Unsurprisingly, the people credited with inventing the aperitivo ritual were also the creators of the ideal aperitivo beverages –  Antonio Benedetto Carpano, the creator of Vermouth, in Torino in 1786 (and later, Joseph Dubbonet brought the aperitif to Paris). Good marketing ploy? Perhaps. But the habit of taking an aperitivo in the evening before a meal became an enormouslypopular one in a short amount of time and soon the classic bars and cafes of the big Italian cities were serving up aperitivo to their fashionable nineteenth century clients. Today aperitivo still plays an important role in Italian social life and is as much about the food and drink as it is about socialising.

There are, as with anything to do with eating and drinking in Italy, rules.

Drink rules.

Certain beverages are seen as appropriate aperitivi, “stomach-opening” liquids that will have your tummy rumbling as they’re thought to help kickstart your digestion. They’re usually relatively low in alcohol content and dry or even bitter rather than sweet – things like prosecco, vermouth (of course), Campari or Aperol. In the beginning these were often served straight up or on the rocks, but now more commonly they are mixed – see below for the classics. Their non-alcoholic counterparts include drinks such as Sanbitter (bianco or rosso) and Crodino, bittersweet, slightly medicinal tasting soft drinks. Then you have drinks that are known as digestivi, or sometimes known as an amazzacaffe (a “coffee killer” for the fact that you take it after you’ve had your after dinner espresso), after dinner drinks, to help you digest your heavy meal after a particularly indulgent eating session – things like grappa, sambuca or any number of amari (called so for their characteristic bitterness) such as Averna or Montenegro. Some are even considered both aperitivi and digestivi, sharing those much-appreciated digestive properties. The retro artichoke liqueur, Cynar, is an example of a herby, bitter drink that was marketed as both.

Food rules.

While traditionally a small, complimentary offering of nuts, olives, perhaps some grissini, cheese or salumi, may accompany your drink, you can find more and more elaborate meals being offered. It’s become (annoyingly) popular now for bars to do an apericena, rather than a traditional aperitivo. Apericena is a made up word (a combination of aperitivo and cena, dinner) to describe a richer, larger buffet of food, an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of (usually) lunch leftovers that are repurposed and revived for the aperitivo-goer to dine on, all included in the cost of one drink. I personally find this goes against the whole idea of what an aperitivo is and it unfortunately has become the rule rather than the exception. 

What to drink.

The classic aperitivi are simple and although they have originated in very specific places, they are now found universally around Italy and beyond – the spritz, whether Campari or Aperol based, is a mainstay of the Venetian aperitivo but as beloved in other cities now too. There’s nothing else I’d rather have on a summer evening: roughly 3 parts prosecco, 2 parts Aperol or Campari (I’m of the Aperol camp personally), a splash of soda and lots (and I mean LOTS) of ice. Garnish with a half slice of orange.

Equal parts of gin, vermouth and cherry-red Campari, the Negroni is, like the spritz, served with plenty of ice and a half slice of orange. It’s a little stronger than your average aperitivo, the bitter, cough-syrup-like Campari giving it its distinct ruby hue as well as its mouth-watering quality – exactly what makes it a perfect aperitivo. Your mouth waters, stimulating your appetite and letting your digestive system get prepared for dinner. James Bond drank it when he wasn’t ordering martinis, and when Orson Welles tried his first Negroni in 1947 he observed, “The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other.”

What to eat.

If you’re replicating your own aperitivo at home (something we love doing), a simple starter is what you’ll need to accompany your aperitivo, a plate of cheese and salumi, some crostini, olives and various dips are just the thing with a spritz or a glass of prosecco.

Where to ejnoy your Aperitivo.

Every week Monday to Friday between 4pm at 7pm @ Ra-Ft Cafe' you can enjoy complimentary Aperitivo with the purchase of any beer or wine. Salute! :) 

 

 

Coffee matters....

It's getting harder and harder to keep up with the ever increasing list of new coffee fads, coffee etiquette and the likes.  To help you to make sense of it all, here are the top 7 things never to order in a Coffee Shop, do you have more?? Right your list in the comments below! :)

SEVEN THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER ORDER IN A COFFEE SHOP

During my five years on bar I’ve heard some bizarre requests. As a barista, it’s my firm conviction that my responsibility to provide hospitality trumps my own preferences. Would I put two Splendas in my coffee? Never. Will I put two Splendas in your coffee if you prefer? Happily.

That being said, there are a few common orders that are objectively wrong. If you value your reputation or have any common decency, you’ll stop ordering these immediately. I write this not to order-shame anyone, but to improve your life and the lives of baristas everywhere. 

HALF CAF ESPRESSO DRINKS

There’s nothing wrong with decaf. Increasingly, quality-minded coffee roasters are putting out better and better decaffeinated coffee. But half caf espresso is a horrible idea. Sure, you may be getting half the caffeine, but you’re getting none of the flavor. Essentially, you’re asking the barista to mix coffee from two different espresso grinders in the same portafilter. The problem is the grounds are going to be different sizes and extract at different rates. The smaller particles are going to over-saturate, giving bitter flavors to the cup while the larger ones aren’t going to be saturated enough, resulting in an overly acidic shot. Suffice it to say, when you mix two different sizes of coffee grounds in the same portafilter, bad things happen.  If you’re looking for a half-caf espresso drink, try a classic single shot cappuccino.

“FOR HERE, IN A TO-GO CUP”

Sometime you have to take your coffee to go. Nothing wrong with that. But if you’re going to be sticking around the café, don’t ask for a paper cup. Every time someone chooses paper over ceramic not only is an actual tree being cut down, but an angel loses its wings. Imagine going to a nice restaurant and asking for your entrée in a styrofoam take away box. That’s essentially what you’re doing.

“MEDIUM COFFEE IN A LARGE CUP”

Your integrity is worth more than fifty cents. You want a large coffee with extra room.

“ESPRESSO OVER ICE” PLUS “FREE” MILK

There’s nothing wrong with pouring espresso over ice. There is something wrong with ordering an espresso over ice, asking for a larger cup, and filling it to the brim with the cream on the condiment bar. That’s an iced breve latte and it costs $6, not $2.50.

“NO-FOAM LATTE”

This isn’t the 90s. With the exception of a few international chains, nobody scoops foam on top with a spoon anymore. A properly steamed latte has very tight micro bubbles incorporated into the entire milk. Asking for a latte without foam means you’re asking the barista to completely disregard everything they’ve learned about steaming milk and just put hot milk in your espresso. You might as well use a microwave.

ESPRESSO TO-GO

Even the largest double shots weigh in at less than three ounces. That espresso takes a maximum of two sips to finish. Order it to-go and you’ll be throwing away your empty paper cup in the trash can by the door. Trust us, it will taste better in a demitasse anyway.

WHITE MOCHAS

Just kidding. Order as many white mochas as you want.