Few things are as glorious as the sheer concept of the Aperitivo. Unlike Happy Hour or Tapas, it’s not an activity that happens to be taking place at a time between times, it is an event in and of itself.
So splendid an event, where friends meet, drinks and food are matched and gleefully consumed – that if we had to name but one thing to import from Italy, we would happily name the institution of “Aperivo”.
Granted, having been picked over fancy suits, the riviera and the month long hiatus that is August (or even the abundant Mediterranean sunshine), it’ll have to be a rather more “rustic” and hurried affair in comparison…
The term aperitivo is often confined to one of its many meanings and is rarely understood in all its magnificence however. It is both a drink (aperitif), a pass time (you literally go for an aperitivo) and could be loosely translated into English as an appetiser (thus the small food and bitter-sweet drinks). The word aperitivo originates from the Latin verb aperire, which means ‘to open’. Thus when it comes to gin… the idea is to serve small drinks and small snacks that open (stimulate) your appetite.
When combined, the aperitivo is summarised in the simple, charming notion of a very social occasion where friends meet up and share good times, good drink and good food – before then going home for dinner (to presumably, do the same again!).
We’ll give you the Aperol Spritz, the Americano or even Dubonnet, Sherry or Pastis. They are all enjoyable. However, none really have the sheer variety of combinations the Negroni has, all made possible by a huge variety of Gins and vermouths. Crucially, none have the ability to transcend you out of a moment and into an entirely new mood.
Combine a specific Negroni with a particular food and you’ll find yourself bewitched.
You can easily replicate the Italian aperitivo experience at home too, no matter where you are. Aperitivo is all about simplicity and ease and a great way to unwind with flatmates, family or friends. Here are three incredibly easy to make Negroni and food combinations to get you started. Hopefully, they’ll inspire you to try hosting your own – just remember, it’s supposed to be about being inclusive so if you do indulge, get everyone involved!
Charcuterie board paired with a characterful and malty Negroni
A truly epic charcuterie board, filled with a variety of cured meats, something pickled, maybe a little pate and some artisan breads, is truly a sight to behold. While the main attraction of a charcuterie board is (and should) be the meat, even though you’ll be pairing it with a Negroni which will offset the salty goodness, adding some fresh in-season fruit will also add sweetness and layer the experience.
What to fill the platter with? Start with some Prosciutto di Parma and some Salame Felino (it has a slightly sweet taste and is flavoured with white wine and peppercorns). Then add in Porchetta. With its fatty and savoury taste, it typically comes heavily salted and seasoned with herbs – delicious! Throw in some Alto Adige Speck, a cured and smoked type of meat with bold flavours that really stand out. Add in some carefully selected sourdough rye bread too, a few pickles and you’ll find your happy place in no time.
As for the Negroni (made using equal parts Gin, vermouth and Campari) – use St George Rye Gin from California. It’s an unusual gin in that it’s got all the malty tones of rye, with all the botanical highlights of an aromatic gin. The crossover is a perfect choice to combine with Campari and a vermouth like Mancino Rosso Amaranto. The fruitiness of this Italian vermouth further accentuates the zesty grapefruit peel top notes of the gin, as well as its fresh juniper core.
Combined with a meat platter, this Negroni delivers just the right amount of complexity and bitterness to offset the saltiness, while also complimenting the food.
Cheese board paired with a fruity Negroni
It may be a little bit of a 70’s throw-back, but the cheese board is still easily the simplest and tastiest aperitivo classic to put together.
Kicking off with the Negroni this time, the aim here is to focus on harnessing fruity tones of a gin and vermouth. With this in mind – pairing Sharish Gin with Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth and Campari is a great start. This vermouth was first invented in the 1700’s and has its heavier slightly syrupy profile with flavours of dried fruits, cherries and a touch of cinnamon.
The Portuguese Gin, Sharish is distilled from ingredients including Apple Bravo, Lucia Lima, orange peel and juniper berries and has bold flavours of grapes and soft fruit. The Negroni is soft and fruity, almost viscous and packed with vivid berry notes.
Pile an alpine cheese like Gruyere, alongside Manchego and some quince jam, Gouda and a healthy block of Westcombe Cheddar for the ultimate cheese platter to match. A good piece of advice is for some of the semi-firm cheeses to be pre-sliced and to leave the smoky cheeses for another occasion. Add in some roasted almonds and some salted pistachios as bolt add on, next to a selection of quality crackers. Easy to assemble and all over much too soon!
Bruschetta paired with a bright, lighter Negroni.
Bruschetta are almost the perfect little aperitivo dish. Not too big but packed with flavour. They can be served with either warm or cold bread and combine the two fundamental Italian staples; tomato and basil.
A selection of these little puppies brings beaming smiles every time and actually allows the maker quite a few ways to get creative too. Simply alterer what you add into the mix based preferences (some like to add goats cheese or black olives to the tomato and basil for example).
In terms of flavour matching, a lighter Negroni is needed here. Try Sacred Distillery’s Rosehip Cup. It’s a fruitier, less bitter alternative to Campari with 27 botanicals including English rosehip and English rhubarb.
Partner it with Belsazar Red Vermouth which offers up a fresher take in this fortified wine category. Finally, finish the trio off with of bold beauty of a juniper elixir – Helsinki Dry Gin. The massive dose of verdant juniper and juicy lignonberries alongside softer notes of fennel make for a delicious gin. Assembled in this combination, the trio makes for a Negroni that’s ideal to match against the tomato and basil.
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