In this blog post I will attempt to convince you, reader, to stop whatever your current pre-dinner ritual and to instead take 15 minutes to relax and enjoy a light, slightly bitter, slightly sweet drink accompanied by salty snacks (like nuts or olives). The purpose? To whet your appetite and open your senses, preparing your palette to enjoy your meal. If you are totally against this proposition then this post isn’t for you. But if like me, you take pleasure in tasty, unique beverages and crunchy, salty little treats, and you think you might be open to this kind of suggestion, please read on.
You’re still reading, so you likely know that I’m talking about the aperitif. This word refers to both the act of enjoying a pre-meal drink and also to the beverages consumed therein. While it is more common in Europe to experience such a thing, here in the U.S. we too have a fine tradition of imbibing before we eat: think happy hours and cocktail parties. But there is something special about the way that the aperitif wine helps us prepare to eat that a pint of IPA cannot reproduce. It’s the combination of bitterness, acid, and sweetness that awakens the salivary glands and gets us ready for dinner without filling us up.
So, dear reader, next time you are hosting a dinner party, start your night right with a little apéro. You can serve any of these chilled over ice, with a spritz of soda water, or try our very own recipe for your “Aperitif Fix.” Serve them with a bowl of the aforementioned mixed nuts and you’ve got your night started. And we haven’t even mentioned the possibilities for mixing cocktails! Chin chin!
One of the original bitters in Italy, Campari was invented in 1860 by its eponymous founder, Gaspare Campari. It is also the essential ingredient in the classic Negroni cocktail, but if you’re an Italophile you just mix this with soda water and pretend you’re on the Almalfi Coast.
Lillet Blanc $19.99
Lillet is the original French Aperitif – it was initially used to cure malaria, but it tasted so good that it soon being used at the dinner table. It is made from Sémillon wine with quinine and citrus liqueurs added. Serve it chilled with orange peel or add some berries or peach slices for a quick and delicious Sangria.
Uncouth Vermouth Seasonal Hops $44.99
This wildly inventive vermouth is the brainchild of Bianca Miraglia. Using the seasons as her inspiration, Bianca sources different herbs, plants, and spices and infuses them with a complementary wine base. The Hops is made with 16 different plants plus a final addition of Cascade and Nugget hops. Craft beer lovers will totally dig this amazing vermouth.
Buil & Giné Vermut $27.99
A unique aperitif from the Priorat region in Spain, the Buil & Giné is a vermouth made from the Macabeo grape and infused with more than 110 different plants and herbs. It’s then aged for two years in oak barrels to get the desired color. It’s wonderfully bitter with a perfect balance of sour and sweetness. Serve this on the rocks or try it in a Manhattan.
Cocchi Vermouth di Torino $22.99
Vermouth di Torino is one of the only two protected geographical indication of origins for vermouth, the other being Chambéry in France. To celebrate their 120 year anniversary, the House of Cocchi recreated their original recipe for Vermouth Torino. With flavors of citrus, cocoa, and rhubarb, enjoy this neat with a citrus peel. It also makes a fabulous Manhanttan.