There’s something very Italian about drinking a pre-dinner cocktail or aperitif whilst watching la passagiata.
Imagine a lovely evening relaxing in the evening sun on the terrace of a local corner bar. The metallic chairs scrape as you pull them towards your table. The menu is proffered, you order and, after a short pause, the efficient waiter brings you your drink of choice with a flourish accompanied by a small selection of nibbles (sfizi). You sit back and relax, slowly sipping your drink and watch the world go by.
On nearby tables, well-dressed Italian ladies are locked in deep conversation; youngsters effortlessly combine furious smoking, posing and checking their status on their Smartphones; and a professorial-type in tweed sits with a small dog reading his newspaper. The hefty slug of alcohol gives you a welcome, warming jolt. So you order another. But the alcohol doesn’t really matter; to be honest you can drink anything. It is all about seeing and being seen. And not drinking too much before the serious business of eating starts.
Apparently the cocktail tradition in Italy really got going after WW2 as Italy moved from an agrarian-based to industrial-based society and the urban workers gained some free time to spend together. Despite the import of American-style classics such as Margarita, Caipirinha or Mohito, there is still a wide choice of traditional Italian cocktails available, based on vermouth, spirit or bitters such as Negroni, Bellini, Americano, Bicicletta or Spritz. Or a classic martini, with vodka or gin — of course shaken not stirred.
More cocktail recipes to follow.
Photo: Mr and Mrs Broken Columns watching sunset whilst drinking Spritz (him) and Prosecco (her).