If you haven’t had a chance to enjoy a classic Apertivo hour, then you’ve missed out on one of life’s simplest pleasures. Apertivo hour is well known in European culture, but in North America the tradition didn’t take hold asa strongly. In fact, the closest representation to Apertivo hour would be “Happy Hour” but even then, it doesn’t quite fit the mood.
Apertivo hour is the whole inspiration behind the bar philosophy of Dante NYC, one of the world’s best bars and home of bartender Naren Young. Naren was recently on tour with Dante as a pop-up experience at Homer Street Cafe in Vancouver; during that tour, Naren hosted a class with many of the cities top bartenders, explaining the concept behind Dante, and why Apertivo hour is a tradition that is drastically underserved.
Granted Apertivo hour is not something that Dante invented; in fact Naren explained that Apertivo hour has been around for centuries, with the word itself deriving from the Italian verb aprire, to open.
In Italian culture aperitivo is a perfect opportunity for you to open your appetite, and ready your stomach for the amazing culinary experience coming.
Apertivo hour can take on many forms, but there is a common thread between all of them. The purpose is not to get drunk, but to enjoy good company, small appetizers and drinks typically consisting of low-alcohol components. In the 18th century, King Vittorio Emanuele II embraced vermouth as his pre-dinner drink of choice. In 19th-century Tuscany, Count Camillo Negroni invented a vermouth-based concoction which went on to be known as the Negroni; this became a staple for aperitivo hour in Tuscany. The Venetians prefer a glass of prosecco or a small pour of wine.
For Dante, Apertivo hour is a chance for patrons to enjoy one of the world’s best negroni’s or sample from Dante’s vermouth on draft. The key again is light, refreshing and palate cleansing; something to tide you over while you get ready for dinner.
Thankfully, more bars and restaurants are taking the spirit of Apertivo hour more seriously. What happens is a casual environment in even the most prestigious restaurants where patrons can feel relaxed, enjoy the company of good friends, and generally take things at a slower pace.
And that’s truly what Apertivo hour is all about; taking the time to enjoy the simple things in life, in good company.