Aperitif, a convivial rite by which we can round off a day’s work, meeting friends and toast with a nice cheers!
But do you know the origin of this cheerful and funny formula, that is onomatopoeic, too?

I was curious about the specific origin of this word, so unusual and not obvious at all. Discovering its derivation has been incredible: cin cin appears to come directly from China. No, nothing to see with Chin(a), of course! Nor it is linked to the long stay of Marco Polo, our famous compatriot, in the land of the Great Khan. Marco Polo has narrated sumptuous banquets at the imperial court, they went down in history for their thousands of guests, huge golden vases used instead of barrels and as many courses as each day of the year. These were plush and impressive moments and they became proverbial as any event from an East cloaked in charm and wealth.

F.lli Gancia, tray dating back to 1900, Arona

F.lli Gancia, tray dating back to 1900, Arona

And cin cin (cheers) then?

It seems that its meaning comes from the two Chinese words Ch’ing Ch’ing, literally ‘please, please’. This expression has arrived in Europe via a few British sailors working in Guangzhou. Ch’ing Ch’ing was used by the Cantonese as a polite form of thanksgiving, the officers of His Majesty gladly received this motto and during the Victorian age they began to adopt it and use it. In Italy, and not only there, this word refers to the clinking of glasses and toast the joy. And dealing with toast. it is natural to connect this joyful moment with chalices, glasses and glass.

 Glass Museum in Murano, Goblets and drinking glasses

Glass Museum in Murano, Goblets and drinking glasses

The Murano Glass Museum dedicated this Spring a curious exhibition about the ritual of the aperitif: The glass for a drink. The transformation of the toast. Stories of glass and paper. Curated by Elena Povellato in collaboration with the m.a.x. museum of Chiasso, the exhibition highlighted the transformation of the toast, focusing on the aesthetics of the glass used for the appetizer and the new form of advertising in which it will be the protagonist. Playbills, posters, graphics and the same liquor brands used in cocktails such as Cinzano, Campari, Martini became famous thanks to this new trend of social encounter. Famous artists such as Marcello Dudovich, Fortunato Depero and Armando Testa, among others, designed the advertising campaigns and the brands of large companies, relating the business culture and an insight into the history of advertising. Chalices and glasses became real design objects, drawn with various logos or made in bizarre and detailed specimens, seltzer bottles assumed shapes of great refinement.

Fortunato Depero, Man with moustache and aperitif, 1944 private collection

Fortunato Depero, Man with moustache and aperitif, 1944 private collection

Since the late nineteenth century to the bizarre Futurist implications, from the splendor of the Belle Epoque to the Deco period, the lightness of the “dolce vita” until our Happy Hour, the social ritual of toast and aperitif remains unchanged in its lightness and pleasantness.

In all, then, cheers!

Maria Laura Bidorini
BestVeniceGuides
mlbidorini@tin.it