The Art of Imbibing

11 Oct

art deco poster, cinzano, dry, extra dryArt deco poster, Aperol Aperitivoart deco poster, campari l'aperitivo

“What is art?”, I asked my Grade 6 Art teacher, the oh-so-appropriately named Mr Brushfield.

Mr Brushfield was momentarily flustered. For a twelve-year old, this bordered on the precipice of being a question almost as broad and curious as the existentialist’s classic, “What is the meaning of life?”

Art is specifically indefinable; a concept and product that is open for debate and interpretation by whomever has an opinion. However to look at it in its most simplest form, art is the product of creativity and imagination.

It evokes emotion.

It sparks passionate discussion.

It moves you.

It should leave you wanting more.

La Donna del Vino is certainly not an art blog. That is something I would leave to my wondrously talented artist of a mother who has enlightened and taught me the appreciation of art since I was little. However a blog allows one to probe occasionally into unexpected territory.

Art has traditionally been defined in the work of painting, sculpture, music, literature or even dance. For today only and for the purpose of relating my askew way of thinking to something more La-Donna-del-Vino-appropriate, I would like to trial the tolerance of inserting ‘Imbibing’ into that accepted spectrum of the art world.

You will have to excuse the use of the word ‘imbibing’ instead of something more commonly used such as ‘drinking alcohol’, but ‘The Art of Imbibing’ just sounded so much more appealing and enticing to read than ‘The Art of being a Damn Fine Boozehound’. Or am I just out of touch and should have rethought that?

Regardless, in the spirit of Julie Andrews:

Let's start from the very beginning, singing to kids, Julie Andrews

“Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”


An aperitivo, or more commonly known as as apéritif, is simply a substance that engages and stimulates the appetite. The word was derived from the Latin verb aperire, which means “to open.”

Like any fine beverage that oscillates in popularity, it is one category of imbibing that I think needs to be encouraged so that it does not become a dying art, like a detailed fresco painting.

The world of aperitivi is vast:

Cinzano | Vermouth | Aperol | Negroni | Campari | Mandarino | Punt e Mes

Aperitif, stimulating the appetite, campari, cinzano, mandarino, punt e mes

Photograph by La Donna del Vino

These can be indulged liscio (without any accompaniment), with ice, or served with a slice of citrus and/or soda to lengthen the drink.

Only more recently since moving into the city have I embraced the idea of going to a nifty bar and requesting an Aperol spritz or Negroni with a slice of orange and sipping my way to splendour. In the pursuit of continuing the art of commencing evenings in style, I shall forge on, Mel Gibson ‘Braveheart’-like, working to spread the love for a fine aperitivo .


After the aperitivo, it is customary to move onto the main beverage of your evening, which in most cases is wine.  This paragraph need say no more seeing as I ramble often enough about wine and food on here. If you must remember one thing however, let it be this:

Life’s too short to drink bad wine” 


In contrast to the concept of an aperitivo, a digestivo (also known as digestive or amaro (bitter)) will generally have more alcohol than the former and can aid in digestion, especially if made from carminative herbs.

As an idea of what constitutes a digestivo, check out the list:

Montenegro | Amaretto | Fernet | Mirto | Amaro Nonino | Anice | Sibilia | Sambuca | Genziana root-based | Barolo Chinato | Grappa alla ruta | Coffee

Bepi Tosolini Amaro, Amaretto Torino, Varnelli Sibilia, Varnelli Anice, Vajra Barolo Chinato, Cividina Grappa alla ruta

Photograph by La Donna del Vino

 Un caffe’ is included on this list. Italians are accustomed to finishing a meal with a short caffe’ espresso. The coffee itself is a digestivo, which is made even better if it is ordered con la mosca (with the fly) consisting of a coffee bean placed on top of the crema and a drop of sambuca or grappa.

Alternatively, the easiest method I have found for producing a gorgeous smile on my Nonno’s face is by requesting either a sorbeto limoncello or a chilled glass of straight limoncello out of the freezer to cleanse the palate.

Limoncello di Capri, Bergaspino

Photograph by La Donna del Vino

I often wish to extend the evening.

I often wish to prolong the conversation.

Ordering a digestivo is one of my methods to do so, in addition to acting as the calming remedy for the body after a satisfying meal.

I like to believe that as long as I am around (mind you, I have Walt Disney-like ambitions), I will keep the art of imbibing alive. Don’t worry mum. There is no need for an AA meeting. I just happen to like the idea of an evening accompanied by some class in my glass.

Aperitivo, Vino and Digestivo…you…complete me.

One Response to “The Art of Imbibing”

  1. avid reader October 11, 2011 at 8:56 AM #

    yes bitters are terrific after a meal. It seems in australia we are not accustomed to bitter/amaro. We have taste buds & like sweet, sour & salty but bitter rarely gets a mention yet in italian foods we love it. Ciccoria, bitter raddicio, bitter greens cooked and served yum and so good for the digestion true. Bitter is a taste that we should get used to. I think its even nicer sometimes even than sweet as you get older or more accustomed to it. I just found out there is another taste ‘savory’ or ‘umami’. So we have sweet, bitter,savory, salty & sour. Five taste sensations to describe things in broad terms.

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