Few traditions can transform an ordinary evening into an extraordinary one quite like the Aperitivo.
Known to originate from Italy, this pre-meal ritual invites friends to unwind, sip and snack, all while enjoying good company and conversation.
Today, we're going to take this ritual a step further by infusing it with the lively spirit of Latin culture. Think warmth, rhythm, vibrant colours, but without the stereotypical corny party cliches. Let's explore some Latin riffs on classic cocktails and complementary culinary suggestions that will add a sizzle to your next aperitivo gathering.
Before we do though, it’s worth pointing that there really isn’t anything ‘authentic’ to base off – the aperitivo doesn't have a direct cultural equivalent in Latin America. That said, socialising and hospitality are deeply ingrained in the region's culture.
So, this is not a guide to how it’s done out there, more a way to shake up what we do here, but with a little latin flair…
Give the booze shelf a makeover.
As you prepare to host your Latin-inspired aperitivo, a well-stocked bar cabinet will be crucial in capturing the true essence of the region’s cocktail culture.
You’ll already have Tequila. Everyone does. But Mezcal should be a staple in your cabinet too. This Mexican spirit, made from the heart of the agave plant, offers a distinct smoky flavour that sets it apart from anything else. With its often robust, earthy herbal notes, Mezcal can lend depth and character to your cocktails, making them an instant hit among those who enjoy a smoky twist.
Whether you're whipping up a Mezcal Margarita, Mezcal Negronis or a smoky Caipirinha Remix, this versatile spirit will transport your guests to the heart of Oaxaca.
Next, don't forget to stock up on Pisco. Hailing from the vineyards of Peru and Chile, Pisco is a grape brandy that is known for its aromatic flavour profile. Traditionally used in the Pisco Sour, this spirit's versatility allows it to shine in a variety of cocktail mixes, such as the Latin twist on the classic Mojito or in with some Suze (or other gentian bitters) and Blanc vermouth for a White Negroni.
Venturing further south, picking an unusual and hyper specific version of Rhum Agricole can be a niche but super cool addition to a shelf.
Take Clairin from Haiti, or one of the stellar Agricole names hailing from the Martinique, or a Cachaça that’s been aged in unusual native oak.
As Brazil's national spirit, it's the essential ingredient in the country's most famous cocktail, the Caipirinha. Its grassy, funky sugar cane notes, with hints of citrus and (if aged) caramel, makes Cachaça an exciting alternative to rum or tequila in various cocktails.
Finally, include some fruity Rum, specifically a quality aged variant from Central or South America.
The big names are Flor de Caña from Nicaragua or Ron Zacapa from Guatemala or Diplomatico from Venuzuela, but there are many more out there. The aim here avoiding white rum and leaning into the richer, deeper taste to bring a warmth and complexity that elevates a cocktail, such as in a Latin Old Fashioned or a complex version of a Manhattan.
Aperitivo-style finger foods with latin heat
Now, an aperitivo isn't complete without some enticing bites to accompany your drinks. Here are some Latin-inspired finger foods that pair well with our revamped cocktails.
Empanadas: These little pastries can be filled with anything from cheese to seafood, making them a perfect accompaniment to any cocktail. You can either make them from scratch or buy them pre-made and heat them up before your guests arrive. Mezcal Negronis and a platter of these work particularly well as a combo.
Ceviche Tostadas: A simple yet flavourful dish that adds a refreshing bite to your aperitivo. Make sure to choose high-quality, fresh fish or shrimp, mix with lime juice, chilli, and cilantro, and serve on small tostadas. It’s particularly good paired with Pisco Sours.
Patatas Bravas: These crispy Spanish potatoes topped with a slightly spicy tomato sauce and a drizzle of aioli are a delightful bite-sized addition to your aperitivo spread. Spuds are quite filling, and the heat can be dialled up so drinks like a Spritz or Mojito work well alongside as the long format provides much needed refreshment.
Setting the Scene: Latin Aperitivo Atmosphere
Finally, let's not forget the importance of creating the right atmosphere. The aperitivo hour is about conviviality and if your going to theme it around Latin culture, don’t forget the warmth, vivacity, and a keen sense of community that involves.
If you’ve got the food, drinks and music covered, encourage your friends to embrace the Latin spirit, maybe with a splash of colour or some fun, tropical prints!
There you have it - your mini guide to hosting a Latin-inspired aperitivo.
Pour a cocktail, pass around some tapas, hit play on your Latin playlist, and enjoy the precious time with your friends and family. Salud!