The Aperitif—It’s What’s Before Dinner

Summer is the season for these delightfully delicate drinks. 

The purpose of an aperitif is to open the palate. Taking its name from the Latin verb aperire (“to open”), the aperitif is a light, dry premeal drink that serves to stimulate the appetite and ready one’s stomach for the food yet to come. Not too sweet and not too boozy, these beverages (also called aperitivos in Italy) stoke rather than numb the taste buds. These bitter, herbaceous sips are often served with light snacks as a lovely predinner ritual.

Below is an introduction to the pillars of a solid aperitif menu. These beverages can, and should, be enjoyed simply—with little more than a splash of club soda, an ice cube, or a citrus twist. A couple of chilled ounces of your chosen aperitif is all you need—before dinner, at least.

1606p16-vermouth

VERMOUTH
What It Is:
Aromatized and fortified wine with cardamom, citrus, juniper, saffron, chamomile, or vanilla notes. ABV: 15% to 18%
Where It’s From:
Southern France/ northern Italy
How to Drink It as an Aperitif:
In a small glass with 1 or 2 ice cubes and a lemon or orange twist
Where Else to Put It:
Sweet: in a Manhattan; dry: in a gin martini

1606p16-quinquina

QUINQUINA
What It Is:
Aromatized and fortified wine characterized by a bitter edge from quinine-rich chinchona bark. ABV: 15% to 18%
Where It’s From:
France
How to Drink It as an Aperitif:
In a small glass with 1 or 2 ice cubes, a splash of club soda, and an orange slice
Where Else to Put It:
In a Corpse Reviver #2

1606p16-americano

AMERICANO
What It Is:
Aromatized and fortified wine defined by a blend of gentian, chinchona bark, and orange peels. ABV: 16%
Where It’s From:
Italy
How to Drink It as an Aperitif:
In a small glass with 1 or 2 ice cubes, a splash of club soda, and an orange slice
Where Else to Put It:
In a Vesper

1606p16-campari

CAMPARI
What It Is:
Aromatic liqueur noted for its spicy bittersweetness from rhubarb, ginseng, oranges, and herbs. ABV: 24%
Where It’s From:
Italy
How to Drink It as an Aperitif:
Chilled with a splash of club soda and a lemon or orange twist
Where Else to Put It:
In a Negroni

1606p16-aperol

APEROL
What It Is:
Aromatic liqueur (milder than Campari) infused with orange, rhubarb, gentian, and chinchona bark. ABV: 11%
Where It’s From:
Italy
How to Drink It as an Aperitif:
Chilled with a splash of club soda and a lemon or orange twist
Where Else to Put It:
In an Aperol Spritz

1606p16-berry-limoncelloDIY DIGESTIF
After-dinner drinks are important, too. A slightly richer and sweeter postdinner sip helps you to digest the meal just as a light and dry aperitif helped start it.

Berry Limoncello
Hands-on: 30 min. Total: 5 days

6 large lemons
1 3/4 cups vodka
1 1/2 cups quartered strawberries
1 cup raspberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

  1. Peel lemons with a vegetable peeler. Scrape pith from peels. Place peels in a large pitcher; add vodka. Cover and let stand at room temperature, away from direct light, for 4 days.
  2. Place berries, sugar, and water in a pan over medium; boil. Reduce heat; cook 20 minutes. Cool.
  3. Strain through a fine sieve lined with cheesecloth. Stir into vodka; discard solids. Let stand at room temperature, away from direct light, 1 day. Strain through a fine sieve; discard peels. Chill 4 hours.

SERVES 12 (serving size: 2 oz.)
CALORIES 149; FAT 0.1g (sat 0g, mono 0g, poly 0.1g); PROTEIN 0g; CARB 19g; FIBER 1g; SUGARS 18g (est. added sugars 17g); CHOL 0mg; IRON 0mg; SODIUM 1mg; CALC 5mg

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