When I was a teen, I remember that when my dad came home from the office (think Don Draper in Mad Men) he’d fix Manhattans for himself and my mom. Like many American homes in the ‘60s and ‘70s there was always a stocked bar. Being the curious person that I am, I watched him mix the drinks and after a few times he let me do it myself (I know you’re thinking Child Services should have been alerted). He also took me and my sisters to his club where the bartender was super well known for his cocktails. My father naturally had a Manhattan and we got Shirley Temples.
During that same time he brought me and my sister along on a business trip to Los Angeles (again like DD). He had a business lunch and schlepped us along with him. Imagine these serious professionals and two girls in mini skirts: it was Fellini-esque. The restaurant was an old-school L.A. steak house, a bit dark and only tables with leather couches or seats at the bar. Several rounds of martinis were had by the men but sis and I tucked into the steak and fries.
When I became of age my friends and I would drink Old Fashioneds because they are sweet but they also made us feel like adults. Another one of my favorites was a Bloody Mary at Sunday brunch. Today, cocktails have made a wild come-back all over the U.S. and there are bars popping up everywhere. Even the old ones that still exist are having a renaissance.
In Italy, the cocktail hour—or aperitivo—typically means a glass of Prosecco, a Campari with club soda, a Spritz, Negroni or an Americano (nicknamed after the many Americans who enjoyed it on their visits to Italy) with copious amounts of snacks. That is changing a bit with younger generations of Italians who have travelled and tasted a variety of cocktails. I was at one of my favorite bars the other night near Campo de’ Fiori in Rome and there were Mojitos and Moscow Mules on the menu, but the buffet was still stocked with pasta salad, bruschetta, roasted vegetables and more.
There are great cocktails to be found in Roman hotels, for example the Hotel de Russie, where they make a killer Rossini (a version of a Bellini but with strawberry instead of peach juice). Another trendy spot in the city is the Jerry Thomas Project, a speakeasy that recreates a Prohibition era underground haunt, with password-protected entrance. Barnum Cafe on via del Pellegrino is another spot where I may go after work and I often run into friends or strike up conversations with new ones.
So, cocktail culture has shifted significantly in the Bel Paese and these welcome changes make for a nice addition to the traditional aperitivo hour. Cheers!