(Reuters.com) - In Italy's fashion capital of Milan, the last thing you would want, dear traveller, is to be considered unfashionable.
Luckily, the aperitivo, or "aperitif" is here to save you from that fate. Generally a cocktail with modest alcohol levels meant to stimulate the appetite and refresh the spirit, the aperitivo often includes wine or wine-based vermouth. Bitter-edged liqueurs such as Campari or Aperol are also popular ingredients.
"In Milano we have the aperitivo culture," explains Mauro Mahjoub, who owns Mauro's Negroni Club in Munich but travels frequently to Milan as a brand ambassador for the Campari brand.
"It means the people meet in the bar - and they do." Gratis appetisers or a buffet will often be served at a bar to encourage the cocktails to flow.
If there is an iconic aperitivo, it is the Negroni Sbagliato (the "Wrong Negroni"), says Mahjoub. "We drink it in every bar."
While a "correct" Negroni - another Italian classic - would be made with equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth and gin, the Sbagliato substitutes Prosecco for gin. It's a delightful drink with nothing wrong about it but the name.
Where to enjoy an aperitivo in Milan? Mahjoub recommends that travellers head to the Coin department store for a private elevator ride up to the Globe (<www.globeinmilano.it/>) to enjoy sweeping city views and the aperitivo buffet.
Meanwhile, the near-hidden Exploit (<www.exploitmilano.com/>) is where the locals are likely to be found after work enjoying their aperitivi alongside the long wood-and-leather bar.
Elsewhere, fashionable types head to the sleek bar at the Bulgari Hotel (<bit.ly/unbNSM>). "They have a garden where they serve only Champagne and it is always full with beautiful people," says Mahjoub.
Other options include the bar at the Trussardi (<www.trussardiallascala.com/>) restaurant for seasonal cuisine and model-watching, or a night out at Armani Privé (1, Via Pisoni), a members-only nightclub owned by fashion icon Giorgio Armani.
All set: Your aperitivo will be appropriately stylish. So now, bella, can we talk about your shoes?
RECIPE: Negroni Sbagliato (aka, "The Wrong Negroni")
This classic aperitif was invented at Milan's Bar Basso in the late 1960s. According to proprietor Maurizio Stocchetto, his father Mirko accidentally created the drink when he reached for a bottle of gin for a classic Negroni but instead grabbed a misplaced bottle of spumante. The drink became the bar's signature. Hear Maurizio's story (<here).
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet vermouth, such as Carpano Antica
1 ounce sparkling wine, such as prosecco
Orange slice, for garnish
In a chilled highball glass, stir together the Campari and vermouth with ice. Top with sparkling wine, and garnish with an orange slice.
(Kara Newman is the author of "The Secret Financial Life of Food", Columbia University Press; publication date autumn 2012. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
Editing by Peter Myers