Aperitivo hour in Italy marks the point where afternoon slides into evening. The change of pace is marked with snacks, conversation and a few cocktails. Bittersweet aperitivi like the Aperol Spritz are ideal for refreshing the palate and sharpening up the appetite before dinner. One of the best things about this extended family of cocktails is that they’re easy to recreate at home.

Pick up a bottle of vermouth, a bottle of bitters and a few drinks cupboard essentials and you unlock a world of different combinations – enough to keep your aperitivo hour fresh all summer long. Whether you’re wondering how to make the perfect Negroni or you’re looking for new variations on aperitivo classics, we have everything you need to get started.

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Not to be confused with the bitters you add by the dash to an Old Fashioned, these are ‘potable bitters’ which are more like liqueurs. Bittersweet amari – singularised as amaro – have been a part of life in Italy for centuries. These herbal infusions were traditionally taken around to food to aid digestion, but in the 19th century their complex botanical profiles found new purpose in the cocktail bar. In fact, it was the ancient Venetian practice of taking bitters with a little wine that paved the way for the Spritz we know and love today.

Our selection covers a range of styles, from bright and fruity to earthy and smoky. By changing the bitters in a Spritz or a Negroni you can create any number of variations, one of which might be your new favourite cocktail. In addition to Italian classic like Aperol and Cynar, we offer international bitters that showcase botanicals from around the world.



The style of vermouth most associated with aperitivi is sweet red vermouth of the kind made popular in Turin in the 18th century. This cocktail bar mainstay first met with Campari in the fashionable cafes of Milan in the 1860s to create the Milano/Torino – an equal-parts serve that gave rise to the Americano and the Negroni.

While sweet vermouth in the Italian tradition is a must-have for any home bar, fortified wines flavoured with botanicals are produced all over the world. The range of flavours found in these various aromatised wines are a gift to cocktail fans. Try Cocchi Americano with a wedge of grapefruit in a classic Spritz or sherry-based Lustau Vermut de Jerez for a twist on the Boulevardier.

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Aperitivo Hour Essentials

Once you’ve got your vermouth and your bitters, you’ll need a few other ingredients to pad out your repertoire of aperitivi. Soda water is good to have on hand for long drinks, as is a bottle of sparkling wine-or-two for Spritz. Like the vermouth and bitters, each of these elements is customisable to your tastes.

The great thing about these cocktails is that they offer a pattern rather than a hard-and-fast recipe, meaning that you have plenty of scope to get creative. Fresh out of gin but there’s a bottle of Mezcal on the bar cart? Make a straight substitution and have yourself an extra herbal, smoky Negroni. Just follow the basic formula of any of the aperitivo classics above and have fun with it.