By Guido Masé, RH (AHG), Chief Herbalist at Urban Moonshine
Come early evening, around six o’clock, when the sun is still strong but a cool breeze begins to lift the heat of the day, Italians gather at the local bar for aperitivi. Sitting under striped awnings, they sip from wine glasses full of a light, sparkling drink made from seltzer water and mild bitter preparations. The glasses vary in color from dark brown, through red, and into an almost electric orange, reflecting the ingredients they contain. These drinks are preferred over strong cocktails, and are really the beginning of the evening meal as they support digestion and can help prevent indigestion and heartburn. After the aperitivi, a short walk through narrow streets leads to the main restaurant, where the real eating begins: three, often four courses featuring rich cream and meat sauces, lots of prosciutto and thin cuts of beef, plenty of seafood and crisp vegetables. Visitors are often encouraged try aperitivi, as the rich (and abundant) combinations of food can be too much for the digestion, and the bitter drinks before meals really help.