The most important aperitivo etiquette rules. The appropriate behavior for drinking at an aperitivo. Avoid embarrassments and be an ideal customer.
What aperitivo etiquette is
Aperitivo etiquette is the set of rules to go to an aperitivo. It includes the appropriate time, how to order, what to eat and drink, and the appropriate behavior.
As a guest, know aperitivo etiquette rules to avoid any embarrassment.
As a host, aperitivo etiquette rules help you manage your customers’ expectations.
General aperitivo etiquette principles
Aperitivo is an Italian custom that is spreading globally. An aperitivo means having pre-dinner drinks along with light snacks or appetizers. Many bars, restaurants, and even hotels serve aperitivo.
Aperitivo etiquette is based on three main principles.
- Match our rights as customers with the appropriate manners.
- Respect the venue staff.
- Respect the other guests.
Aperitivo etiquette rules
1) The appropriate time to have an aperitivo
The ideal time for an aperitivo is before a meal. Its purpose is to stimulate the appetite with a light drink and snack.
Before lunch, aperitivo time starts at around 12:00 (12 pm) and lasts until 13:30 (1:30 pm). Before dinner, aperitivo can start at 18:30 (6:30 pm) and usually ends before 21:00 (9 pm).
2) How to dress at an aperitivo
The appropriate dress code depends on the venue and its style.
Some venues, such as wine bars or hotels, tend to be somewhat refined. Others are more informal.
3) Aperitivo ordering & drinking etiquette
How to order at an aperitivo
Appropriate drinks for an aperitivo are:
- Dry white wine. Light-bodied red wine. Rosé wine. Sparkling wine such as Prosecco.
- Dry cocktails based on Gin or Vodka.
- Soft drinks.
Usually, the venue serves complimentary appetizers and light courses. Thus, you do not need to order them. However, it is perfectly appropriate to order additional appetizers or light courses. Avoid ordering large quantities of food.
How to drink & eat at an aperitivo
The venue will serve each drink in its appropriate glass. Apply the general drinking glass etiquette. Always hold a stemmed glass by the stem.
Drink your beverage in small sips. An aperitivo drink is supposed to last between 20 and 30 minutes. Do not rush.
Consider ordering water. Take a sip of water every now and then, while you drink your alcoholic drink. It will help absorb the alcohol.
It is bad manners to over-eat at an aperitivo. Take a bite in between drinks and conversation. Do not stuff your plate with complimentary food.
4) Aperitivo seating and standing etiquette
If you sit, follow the basic table seating etiquette rules. Keep your legs under control. Do not spread or stretch them.
If you stand at the bar or near a stall, limit your movements. Stand still and do not lean on the bar.
5) How to manage your belongings
If the venue has a wardrobe, leave any bag or luggage there.
Otherwise, place them where they do not impede the staff or the other guests. Ideally, keep them on the floor, on the side of your chair. If you are standing at the bar, place them between your feet and the bar.
6) Respect the staff and other guests
Most venues do not allow smoking. Before smoking, ask the staff and the guests at your table if they are ok with it.
Switch the sound of your phone off. Avoid taking a call, texting, or browsing if you are with others. Doing otherwise is a major etiquette breach.
Control the volume of your voice. An aperitivo is a lively social gathering, but speaking in a loud voice is always against etiquette.
Never bring any food or drinks from outside.
Limit the number of drinks. In general, 2 drinks are ok. 3 or 4 are borderline. Over 4 can be too many. If you are getting tipsy, take a break. If you are getting beyond tipsy, consider leaving.
7) Aperitivo rules for kids and pets
Depending on the country, kids or minors might be allowed in venues where alcohol is served. Follow the local rules.
Some venues allow pets on their premises, others do not. Call the venue to check their rules before going.
8) Aperitivo check and tipping etiquette
End your aperitivo in time.
Pay at your table or at the bar, depending on the venue. It is common to tip between 10% and 20% of the total.
Aperitivo etiquette: the worst mistakes
The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors.
A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.
Avoid the worst aperitivo etiquette mistakes.
- 10/10. Getting drunk.
- 8/10. Bringing food or drinks from outside.
- 5/10. Eating too much food at an aperitivo.
- 4/10. Ordering a large quantity of food.
- What is Excessive Alcohol Use?: cdc.gov