Felice Anno Nuovo! Happy New Year!
New Year’s Eve is ripe with tradition in Italy. It’s all about biding good riddance to the bad luck and regrets of the old year, and welcoming good fortune and well-being in the new one.
In some parts of Italy, people take this quite seriously – tossing their old ceramic plates and dishes right off of their apartment balconies to crash and break on the street below. It’s “getting rid of the old” in the most literal sense. Fortunately for the safety of those strolling below, this tradition is practiced less and less frequently.
Shooting fireworks, or sometimes guns, from the rooftops is common in some cities, and one particularly playful tradition is to wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve. This time of year, the window displays of Italian lingerie shops are filled with red intimi for the occasion.
Perhaps the most common tradition on New Year’s Eve is to eat a meal of lenticchie e cotechino, or lentils and sausage, at midnight. The lentils represent coins, an indication of the wealth to come, while the cotechino, a particularly rich and uniquely prepared fresh sausage, symbolizes abundance.
Of course, the Anno Nuovo is toasted with good drink and good fellowship.
For your New Year’s celebration, or for any celebration large or small throughout the year, we’ve presented three classic Italian cocktails: the Bellini, the Negroni and the Americano.
The Bellini was invented in the 1930s at Harry’s Bar in Venice by barman and owner Giuseppe Cipriani. It wasn’t until 1948, though, that Cipriani named the drink after the 15th century Venetian painter Giovanni Bellini. Before and after World War II, European cities were home to high profile American artists and writers, and Venice was no exception. Orson Welles, Truman Capote and Peggy Guggenheim frequented Harry’s Bar, but it was Ernest Hemingway who made it famous. Harry’s Bar still exists in Venice, and there is a New York location, as well.
An authentic Bellini is made with 2 parts Prosecco and 1 part white peach puree. The website for Harry’s Bar states that the peach should be grated or crushed but not blended, that a little sugar can be added if the drink is too tart, and that all ingredients should be as cold as possible when mixing.
Because white peaches are not in season all year long, yellow peaches can be used, or even peach puree if needed. A raspberry or two can be added to give it its characteristic pink hue. Serve it in a flute, with a peach or raspberry garnish.
The Negroni is named after Count Camillo Negroni of Florence, who one day decided to ask his bartender at Caffè Casoni to add gin rather than soda to his Campari and Vermouth cocktail. This gorgeous deep red drink is made with 1 part Campari, 1 part sweet vermouth (Martini Rosso) and 1 part gin. Pour over ice in an old-fashioned tumbler, and garnish with an orange slice and a curl of lemon peel.
The Americano used to be referred to as the Milano-Torino, because its first principal ingredient, Campari, comes from Milan, and its second principal ingredient, sweet vermouth, comes from Turin. An Americano is made with Campari, sweet vermouth and soda in equal parts. It is poured over ice in an old-fashioned glass, and garnished with an orange slice.