Having spent years dutifully researching and testing the Aperitivo offerings of many local and further afield bars, we now consider ourselves well-versed in the humble art. We decided to put our hard-earned experience to the test and take matters into our own hands, concocting our very own home-grown adaptation.

True to the principles of Aperitivo, we wanted to create an array of small plates and complimentary cocktails that were every bit aesthetically pleasing as they were delicious. The prospect of fulfilling this dream led us all over the city, searching high and low for elusive items such as lavender cocktail syrup and fennel fronds. We spent hours drying lemon wheels, marinating vegetables and baking profiteroles–it was a true labour of love, that was all-in-all quite honestly a resounding success.

Over the course of the afternoon, we trialled multiple cocktails before declaring a firm favourite–Italicus & Prosecco. A shining example of a simple, but effective drink that paired exceptionally well with every dish detailed below.

If you’re not familiar with Italicus, we would recommend getting to know it. Produced by a family-owned distillery in Moncalieri, Torino, Italicus champions bergamot fruit (the distinctive flavour in earl grey tea) and has hints of rose, lavender and ripe citrus with a floral spice on the finish. Unfussily top with prosecco for the perfect all-rounder aperitivo drink.

Italicus & Prosecco

Ingredients:

50ml Italicus, Prosecco to top up, 3 pitted green olives on a cocktail stick

Method:

Fill a glass with ice, pour over Italicus, top with prosecco and garnish with the olives to serve.

Courgette, Red Pepper & Feta Crostini

Ingredients:

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon–plus extra zest to serve, 2 courgettes–thinly sliced lengthways, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 crusty baguette cut into 12 slices, 1 garlic clove–halved, 250g feta, 20g mint leaves–finely chopped, plus extra to serve, 120g tinned roasted red peppers, 8 slices prosciutto (optional)

Method:

  1. Combine lemon juice, courgette and 1 tablespoon oil in a bowl. Season and set aside to marinate for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Heat a chargrill pan over medium-high heat. Brush bread slices with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, then grill for 1-2 minutes each side until golden and charred. Rub bread with the cut side of the garlic. Set aside.
  3. In 2 batches, chargrill the courgette (reserving the marinade) for 1 minute each side or until tender and lightly charred.
  4. Add feta, lemon zest and mint to the reserved marinade, then season well and stir until a smooth paste.
  5. Spread the feta mixture onto each baguette slice. Top with roasted red pepper, courgette, and extra zest and mint. Layer prosciutto on top if using.

Parmesan Crisp

Ingredients:

120g parmesan–finely grated, 1 tablespoon plain flour, 250g mixed cherry tomatoes–chopped, 1 garlic clove–crushed, 12 white anchovies (boquerones)–halved, 75g pitted kalamata olives–quartered, 1/4 bunch basil–small leaves picked, 120g ricotta, extra virgin olive oil–to drizzle

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. Combine parmesan and flour in a bowl. Spoon onto a baking paper-lined baking tray and press into a 24cm x 14cm rectangle. Bake for 8 minutes or until golden. Remove and cool completely, then break into crisps.
  3. Combine tomato, garlic, anchovy, olive and basil in a bowl, and season with pepper. Spread ricotta over parmesan crisps, then top with tomato mixture and drizzle with olive oil.

Pesto Profiterols

Ingredients:

120ml water, 40g butter–at room temperature, chopped, 75g plain flour–sifted, pinch of salt, 2 eggs–at room temperature, lightly whisked, 250g light spreadable cream cheese, 60g basil pesto, 12 mixed cherry tomatoes–halved, 1/4 bunch fresh basil leaves, 45g pine nuts–toasted

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Place the water and butter in a saucepan. Bring just to the boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and use a wooden spoon to stir in the flour and salt, beating well to combine. Return to heat and cook, stirring, over medium heat for 1-2 minutes or until the mixture comes away from the side of the pan and forms a ball. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly.
  2. Transfer the dough to a bowl and gradually beat in the egg, a little at a time, beating well after each addition, until the dough is thick and glossy.
  3. Drop heaped teaspoonfuls of the dough onto the prepared trays. Use a wet finger to smooth the surfaces. Sprinkle trays lightly with water and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 180°Cand bake for a further 15 minutes or until light golden and cooked through. Use a sharp knife to make a small slit in the side of each profiterole. Bake for a further 5 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  4. Cut the profiteroles in half and spread cream cheese over the profiterole bases. Top with the pesto, tomato and basil. Sprinkle with pine nuts. Top with profiterole tops.

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