Open your mind to the aperitivo

“World’s Best Bar” Dante NYC joins Homer Street Café and Bar for a pop up—and shares their vision of the future of drinking.

Dante NYC is doing a pop-up bar at Homer Street Café and bar until November 6. Supplied photo

It’s time to bring back the aperitivo, says Naren Young.

“This is something we’ve been obsessing about,” says the beverage director of Dante NYC, which was which was just named “World’s Best Bar” both by World’s 50 Best Bars and, earlier this year, Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards. “The Europeans have been doing this for centuries. Now the rest of the world is catching on.”

Naren Young, beverage director of “World’s Best Bar” Dante NYC, joins Homer Street Café and Bar for a pop-up until Nov. 5. Joanne Sasvari photo

Young has been hanging around Vancouver the past few days doing a pop-up at Homer Street Café and Bar, and you can still catch him and his Negroni fountain on November 4 and 5, from 6 to 10 p.m. (“The hospitality in Vancouver is incredible,” he says. “People really are nicer in Canada.”)

On Sunday, he also led a masterclass for about 40 of the city’s top barkeeps, sharing his love for all things bittered and refreshing.

He explained why it made sense to focus his bar program on the aperitivo. In part, it was because of the space itself. Dante NYC is a modern refresh of a century-old Italian café that was a beloved neighbourhood institution. “In many ways the past of Dante dictated the future of where we were going,” he says.

But his decision to focus on the aperitivo was also in response to how drinking culture is changing. “A lot of the aperitivo movement started with drinks that were stirred and brown,” Young says. Think boozy cocktails like Manhattans, Sazeracs and Vieux Carrés. “It became for me like palate fatigue,” Young says. On the other hand, an aperitivo by its nature is food friendly and appetizing—its very name comes from the Latin “to open,” as in, opening the palate. That typically means drinks that are pleasantly bittered, lower in alcohol and based on vermouths, amaros, sherries and the like.

Young’s 70-cocktail strong list includes spritzes, sherry- and vermouth-based cocktails (such as the Bamboo, Sherry Cobbler, Adonis, Garibaldi and Italian Sour), as well as martinis, a bespoke G&T, a whole selection of Negronis, and several low- and no-proof drinks. “We put as much effort into our non-alcoholic drinks as our alcoholic ones,” he says. Plus they offer 30 different vermouths. “Vermouth is one of those categories that I love. It has a long history throughout Europe.

The Negroni fountain is one of the hallmarks of “World’s Best Bar” Dante NYC. Joanne Sasvari photo

For consistency and ease of service, most of the cocktails are premade, batched, poured on tap or bottled. But each is also served with thoughtful garnishes, craft ice and beautiful presentation. “We take pride in doing simple things well,” Young says. “I’m very obsessive about the details of ice, garnish, temperature. All of these things add to the experience.”

And that type of experience is just what consumers are craving now—and for the foreseeable future. “I don’t believe this is a trend,” Young says. “It’s just the way people are starting to drink. It opens a world of creativity for all of us.”

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—by Joanne Sasvari

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