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Aperol Spritzes, unlimited vacation: Italians do summer right and Americans are catching onto it. Which explains why the aperitivo (aka the superior Italian version of happy hour) is growing in popularity as a party idea. Essentially a dinner party, but stripped of the fuss and focused around drinks and conversation, it’s one very chic shortcut to easy entertaining.

Like the sound of this low-key aperitivo party business? We made you a nifty guide to hosting one in your own backyard—from bites to decor to those all-important aperitivi cocktails. 

RELATED: We’re Calling It: Aperol Spritzes Are the Official Drink of Summer

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Photo: Jon Cospito/Prop styling: Grace Beuley Hunt

APERITIVO, EXPLAINED

While there’s no English translation, aperitivo’s closest association is the American happy hour—a pre-dinner noshing period, typically during the golden hour stretch of late day. But instead of dollar drafts and mozzarella poppers, there are fresh snacks and crisp cocktails made with sweet liquer and diluted by sparkling water, which are thought to whet the appetite and encourage digestion.

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Photo: Jon Cospito/Prop styling: Grace Beuley Hunt

THE SETUP

First things first: Aperitivo is best enjoyed alfresco, so dust off your deck/patio/garden for polite company. And since the name of the game here is grazing, all you’ll need is one surface to heap generously with drinks, snacks and decor. (Round tables lend themselves particularly well to this format.) Note that eating in your lap is totally en vogue—so encourage guests to help themselves and save the formal place settings for when your MIL’s in town. 

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Photo: Jon Cospito/Prop styling: Grace Beuley Hunt

THE TABLEWARE

One of the best things about an aperitivo party? Minimal dish and laundry duty afterward. After selecting some thematic linens (we went with a blue-and-white, Amalfi Coast-inspired scheme), all you’ll need is forks, napkins and some pretty salad or appetizer plates (pro styling tip: food always looks best served on white).

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Photo: Jon Cospito/Prop styling: Grace Beuley Hunt

THE FLORALS

Buzz words here (as with your menu) are “easy,” “fuss-free” and “inexpensive." We love the idea of repurposing European-style water glasses as mini flower vases, which look adorable grouped together or sprinkled down the table. To reinforce the laidback vibe, simply snip some flowers from your backyard and accent them with herbs or greenery. For a little extra height and drama, you can layer in a larger vessel or two (think: a water pitcher) at the back of the table.

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Photo: Jon Cospito/Food Styling: Heath Goldman

The Drinks

A refreshing (and highly 'Grammable) cocktail will be your focal point. But working as bartender all night? Non grazie. That’s where pitcher cocktails like Big Batch Pink Negronis come in. Mix in a pitcher ahead of time (like, a day ahead of time), stash in the fridge and stop stressing. When guests arrive, add ice, stir and strain into coupe glasses. Finish off your booze program by setting out a large ice bucket (we used a vintage punch bowl), and filling with chilled wines and sparkling waters, so guests can fix themselves DIY spritzers, should they please.

Get the recipe

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Photo: Jon Cospito/Food styling: Heath Goldman

THE APPETIZERS

Fresh and easy are key—which is why we recommend several pretty, crowd-pleasing snacks that require minimal assembly. May we suggest Rainbow Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta as a starting point? It’s ready in 15-minutes flat and looks as gorgeous as an elaborate centerpiece. Build out the rest of the appetizer table with little bowls of olives and mixed nuts. A charcuterie board with cheeses, cured meats and ripe pears completes the picture; go with about two ounces of meat and one ounce of cheese per person.

Get the recipe

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Photo: Jon Cospito/Food styling: Heath Goldman

THE MAIN

If you’re only serving one real “dish," it should be a knockout—but that doesn’t mean it needs to be difficult. Folks can help themselves to a summer stunner like our 20-Minute Burrata Salad with Stone Fruit and Asparagus, which is light but totally satisfying—thanks to two whole creamy balls of burrata. The best part? You can fully dress it and it won’t wilt after an hour. How’s that for low-maintenance?

Get the recipe

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Photo: Jon Cospito/Prop styling: Grace Beuley Hunt

THE AGENDA

Sip, snack, mingle and let the day’s troubles float away. Is the art of the aperitivo the key to la dolce vita? We’re sure of it.


Additional Reporting by Heath Goldman

RELATED: Life Lessons We Learned from Italians

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