Culinary Class

How To Host an Aperitivo Hour | Video

By: Amber Chase
Edward Crouse mixes a cocktail at Babas Aperitivo hour

Edward Crouse, co-founder of babas on meeting and babas on cannon in Charleston, discusses the budding sensation of their aperitivo hour, hosted in their two beloved neighborhood shops. Both babas locations have become popular spaces for locals to congregate and commune over sips of peanut milk lattes and well-curated wine and cheese. Earlier this year, they began hosting aperitivo hour on Fridays from 4 to 6pm at each shop, then expanded into Saturdays. babas’ small slice of Italy has become a local haunt for a quick bite and a refreshing cocktail to close out the workweek.

Aperitivo hour is an Italian tradition ubiquitous in Italian nightlife and mirrors the practice of happy hour in the States. The hour falls between work and dinner, and includes a range of small bites and beverages to prepare the palate. “Aperitivo” comes from the Italian verb meaning, “to open”. It represents an opening to conversation, relationships, experiences, and food, a proverbial gathering around a communal table, and a pure expression of Italian culture.

babas takes care to envision their spaces as moldable vessels to host an aperitivo hour, keeping the lighting warm, the hors d’oeuvres light, and the music inviting. At each location, the aperitivo spread focuses on dishes that are salty, briny, and highly acidic, and are intended to wake up the palate. They also keep in mind dietary restrictions and needs in how they structure their menus, leaning on vegetable-based plates and incorporating gluten-free options. This keeps their menu alluring, approachable, and communal.

Tips for hosting an Aperitivo hour

  1. Keep your dishes light and buildable: Stick to plates that are vegetable-based and have flavors that ready the palate for larger flavors later on. Ground your menu in briny, bright, and acidic flavors.
  2. Create an ambiance: Set your lighting low and your music moody. Place your hors d’oeuvres and drinks somewhere accessible. 
  3. Lean into an aesthetic: Choose plates and drinks that complement one another with color and texture, like creamy whipped ricotta with a bold drizzle of Calabrian chili oil paired with vibrant cocktails. This encourages your guests to continually curate their plates with complementary colors. Serve your hors d’oeuvres in eye-catching and quality vessels.
  4. Think craveable and communal: Keep your menu simplistic but approachable; prioritize the bites and beverages that will appeal to a diverse landscape of palates and dietary needs.
  5. Cultivate conversation: Dishes, drinks, music, and vibe may change from week to week, but the company and conversations will always illuminate an aperitivo hour. Create spaces where conversations flourish and laughter is abundant, and your aperitivo hour will always make for a memorable evening. 

Three Dishes from Babas’ Aperitivo Hour

Topping a garibaldi cocktail with an orange wedge at Babas' aperitivo hour

The Garibaldi

A visually stunning companion to the aperitivo spread at Babas, the Garibaldi is an easy afternoon sipper with vibrant notes of citrus and Campari.

Slicing into a chickpea farinata at Babas' aperitivo hour

Chickpea Farinata

Farinata is a specialty in Liguria, Italy, along the Italian Riviera. It’s beautifully simplistic, consisting of chickpea flour, water, olive oil, and salt.

gigante beans in a white plate at Babas' aperitivo hour

Marinated Gigante Beans

A nod to the cicchetti culture of Venice, Italy, these marinated beans are a fan-favorite dish with essences of lemon, herbs, and simple spices.

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