There’s a cobbled-street sprinkling glare into the horizon. People gesticulate wildly over uneven tables, holding glasses filled with crimson, pink and gold-coloured liquor. There’s a band, probably playing brass, and everyone’s fingers have the sheen that comes from handling cured meats. It’s about five o’clock on Friday afternoon in Bologna, a time known as “aperitivo”.
Aperitivo once simply meant a drink you had before dinner; something to dry the palate and get you salivating, primed for something more substantial. Now it has become its own tradition: a grand snacking course fuelled by a love of bright, fresh drinks. In Italy, you simply order an aperitif and bite-sized portions of charcuterie, cheese, focaccia, pizza or pasta come on the house.
Our cocktail culture rivals most cities in the world, but Australia hasn’t really embraced drinking an afternoon aperitif in the same way Italy has. Pete Hurrell, bar manager at the Watsons Bay Hotel, thinks its harbour-side deck is the perfect place to take part in this golden hour; when the summer sun slackens in intensity, and the condensation from an Aperol Spritz relieves the sunburn you didn’t know you had. That’s the Australian aperitivo.
“We try to find cocktails that are quite bright and have a lot of fruit in them. It's look as well as taste,” Hurrell says. The beachside venue serves an Aperol Spritz with prosecco and makes use of the whole orange – that’s zest, peel and juice. “It's really crisp and refreshing,” he says.
For afternoon aperitivo-style snacking Hurrell suggests pairing Aperol cocktails with Australian seafood. “It’s light and fresh,” he says. Give us freshly shucked oysters or a bucket of prawns to peel, and we’re set for the afternoon.
Enjoying an afternoon aperitif in your backyard or on your balcony is an easy and delicious way to celebrate the warmer months. We asked Hurrell to share a recipe for his summer twist on an Aperol Spritz. “We added Appletiser instead of soda to give it a little more sweetness, and then chucked in some apple pieces so it looks great. It’s a modification of our original recipe; it’s still summery and crisp.”
Apple Aperol Spritz by Pete Hurrell
Approximately 1.3 standard drinks
Granny Smith apple
Slice the apple into thin half-oval strips. Mix the Aperol and prosecco and pour into a cocktail glass. Add and few apple slices and some ice, top the drink up with Appetiser and stir. Add a roof of crushed ice and garnish with three or four apple slices arranged as a fan.