At this point in the Italian cocktail’s evolution, the term “aperitivo” has a codified definition—a drink, accompanied perhaps by a bite, before the main event. But its enduring appeal has always been about atmosphere: the sun sinking into the horizon, the close of the workday, lifting a glass of something bittersweet and bubbly to toast another day done. Aperitivo would be nothing without the twilit hours before evening truly sets in, nor if it were separated from the category of drinks that give it its effervescence. What says Italian happy hour better than the bite of bitter liqueur swirled with a pour of sparkling wine? Aperitivo, in its most modern sense, is all about the bubble.
According to Spritz: Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail by Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau, the spritz, as defined in modern drink history, only solidified its modern profile once it gained its sparkle, lent by the doubly fermented wine made from glera grapes in Italy’s Valdobbiadene. At one part red bitter liqueur to three parts sparkling wine, the recipe for the MARTINI & ROSSI® Italian Spritz epitomizes how the reigning cocktail of aperitivo is indivisible from its signature fizz.
Beyond the spritz, the majority of aperitivo’s codified classics share that bubbly and bitter blueprint. Take the “mistake” of a Negroni, the Sbagliato, in which gin is swapped for sparkling wine to make it lower-proof and more sessionable for early evening enjoyment. An Italian Spritz made instead with off-dry MARTINI & ROSSI Rosé Italian sparkling wine becomes a Piedmontese take. And, though dressed up with fanciful garnishes and inflected with elderflower, the French Spritz shares the same DNA as its Italian cousins.