While completing my university studies in Italy, part-time I used to pour spirits and soft drinks in a glass – most of the times full of ice – blend the content by stirring and then serve it on a counter bar mat. I basically used to work as an American bartender.
This way I came to have quite a good grasp of how Italians like to spend the beginning of their evenings rather than the ending or their afternoons. Recently it has become more and more popular for Italians to hang out in American bars where, especially during the week, the peak service hours would be from 17:00 to 21:00 hrs. This may not just be a coincidence; instead it would be matching with the right timeframe to fit drinkers’ need for relief after a stressful day.
Hence, sipping a spritz, rather than a negroni or just drinking a beer – preferably at the sunset – would typically reflect the conclusion of a work/studying day of most of Italian workers and university students, who enjoy chilling out at a bar with their friends and colleagues. By chance this enjoyable time would go by the name of “Happy Hour”.
Although this expression probably dates back to the eighteenth century, when alcohol was allowed to be drunk only at a certain time of the day, the happy hour would nowadays be mostly known as the time when drinks are given out at half price. Apparently, Italian bar managers would not really comply with such strategy. They would instead keep the price range as ordinary, and have their counters invaded by infinite servings of appetizers of different kinds of food, including typical delicacies such as mozzarella morsels, bruschette and tastings of different kinds of risottos and pasta. This is probably done with the dual aim: to both replenish the hungry mouths of customers and in the meantime make their thirst go up.
Amongst the most requested happy hour drinks in the Italian bars, you for sure won’t be missing: a ‘mojito’, a glass of ‘prosecco’, an ‘Aperol spritz’, a glass of wine, or the more gentle sparkling Italian alternative to the traditional recipe of negroni, with prosecco in place of the gin, also known as ‘negroni sbagliato’.
As the tipsy flow of ‘happy drinkers’ is full enough you can see them dispersing between nightclubs and homes, where they’ll either continue their night by partying or just reaching their own bed, or why not? Maybe joining someone else’s!