Forget Spritz. Instead, try these lesser-known Italian aperitifs

There’s no doubt we Italians love chatting with friends, hanging out and having a drink. We do it before lunchtime, in the afternoon, before dinner time… any moment is good for an “aperitivo”, because it is not a mere drink, but also a state of mind. It’s that moment of the day—well, sometimes it’s more than just one—when we Italians unplug our mind from everything we were doing just a few minutes before, and take a break with people we love. More experienced wine lovers usually choose what they are going to drink with care. Usually, young adults don’t care so much, and just follow the trend, so that from one end of Italy to the other, the most popular aperitif is the Spritz, made with Prosecco and either red Campari or orange Aperol. 

However, there are a couple of different and interesting options in Verona and the Lake Garda area. Don’t get me wrong, they are not as popular as the Spritz, so few bartenders know how to prepare them. But I’m going to give you the recipes for both of them, so you can prepare them by yourself. 

The first is Chiarè, a fresh and appealing aperitif made with Chiaretto di Bardolino DOC sparkling wine. It was conceived by Andrea Palmisano,  barman and owner of Caffè Matteotti in Bardolino, with the help of Mauro Sabaini, barman of Caffè Centrale. Chiaretto is well known as the pink wine of Lake Garda, a playful brother to Bardolino wine. It’s the rosé version of it made with the same grapes: Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella grown on the moraine hills of the lake hinterland. Recently, the Consorzio asked Unicode Consortium (the Californian body that oversees the rules of computer writing) to create an official emoji just for pink wines. They deserve it. 

Below is a recipe for Chiarè. If you want to dazzle your friends instead, offer them a Flaming Lips. You’ll find the recipe further down.

Chiarè for two

  • Chiaretto sparkling wine, 120 ml
  • Elderflower syrup, 30 ml
  • Soda water,  15ml 
  • Ice cubes
  • Fresh mint leaves

Put the ice in first, then pour in the elderberry syrup and the Chiaretto Spumante. Add the mint leaves and finish with the soda.

Flaming Lips

No, I don’t mean the American psychedelic rock band from Oklahoma, but the drink created by Enrico Fiorini and Gianluca Boninsegna, two sommeliers from Verona, respectively the Best AIS Veneto Sommelier 2014 and 2015. 

Flaming Lips is an even rarer and more delicious aperitif made with a charming wine: the sparkling Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG, the renowned sweet red wine made with dried grapes like Amarone della Valpolicella. In the past, this wine was produced in seven different ways. There was even a fortified wine; today, however, only two or three types of Recioto are still made. One of them is the sparkling version. If you come to Valpolicella, make sure you look for it, and buy some bottles. That way you will always have the right ingredients on hand for your home made Flaming Lips.

  • 2/3 of a dry tonic water, 
  • 1/3 of sparkling Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG
  • Some drops of a triple sec (Cointreau, for example)
  • Juice of a half lime
  • Blueberry sugar (just enough) 
  • Ice cubes

Put the ice in a jug, then pour on some drops of a triple sec, followed by the sparkling Recioto della Valpolicella, the juice of a lime cut in half, the blueberry sugar and finally the dry tonic water. Enjoy! 

Photo from Consorzio Tutela Chiaretto e Bardolino

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