An aperitivo is a pre-meal drink specifically meant to whet your appetite. Although the concept of inspiring your stomach to do one thing or another with alcohol is probably as old as alcohol itself, the concept of the modern apéritif is generally thought to have been invented (or effectively marketed) by the distiller Antonio Benedetto Carpano, who also created one of the first types of vermouth in Turin in 1786. He claimed that his special combination of fortified white wine and various herbs and spices stimulated the appetite and was more suitable for ladies to drink than red wine. It thus became one of the first popular aperitivo drinks.
Today, the simple drink has evolved and spread south to encompass those glorious couple of hours all over Italy – generally between 7pm and 9 pm – when Italians meet to relax over a glass of wine or a light cocktail and finger foods. Since most people eat lunch around 1 or 2pm, and dinner around 8 or 9 pm, it’s also a good way to kick start metabolisms and work up an appetite for dinner.