Picture this: you are planning the perfect dinner party. You have prepared appetizers, a luxurious three-course meal, dessert, and even after-dinner drinks and an assortment of coffee. But something is missing. What is it?
You need an aperitif to complete your classy night of food, drink, and conversation.
An aperitif is an alcoholic drink that you serve before the meal. These drinks are specifically designed to stimulate the appetite and prepare guests for large portions. You’ll also hear aperitivo mentioned in this piece, which is simply the French aperitif’s Italian counterpart.
Aperitifs and aperitivos are generally dry drinks, such as wine, champagne, or vermouth. You can serve them alone or alongside hor d’oeuvres and light appetizers. Aperitifs are meant to be light drinks, so many liquors are diminished using carbonated ingredients.
Now that we understand the purpose behind them, we can dive into the best aperitifs to serve your guests – or even just to try for yourself.
Keep reading to learn more about each of the most popular aperitifs.
Campari is an Italian red spirit that boasts a complex, bitter flavor in a bold, red color.
Although Campari is first and foremost an aperitif, it has served as the critical ingredient in many popular cocktails, such as the negroni, garibaldi, and bitter bird.
But on its own, the age-old aperitif offers a balanced blend of orange, herbal, and floral notes. Despite its bitter bite, it’s quite smooth and woody.
It makes a delightful drink to sip with cheese, olives, nuts, and pickles. And if the bitterness is too strong, you can dilute it with some simple soda.
Aperol is an aperitivo that relies on a unique and very secretive recipe.
While we can’t know for sure how this appetizer drink was created back in 1919, we do know that its taste relies heavily on orange notes, herbs, and roots.
The concoction boasts a bold and vibrant orange color, which is the perfect introduction to its equally animated taste.
Aperol is sharp with touches of sweetness, followed by lasting hints of woodiness and saltiness. If you pay close attention, you may get the tiniest bit of vanilla.
Aperol has a low alcohol content, so you can easily sip it on its own. I love to serve this aperitif with Prosecco and soda, garnished with an orange slice.
If you’re truly looking to make your cocktail hour fancy and cultured, try the French aperitif, Pastis.
Pastis is often touted as iconic and has made a cultural comeback in recent years as a way for everyone to enjoy a bit of the south of France.
The word pastis quite literally means mixture, which is appropriate given how much goes into this drink.
Pastis is a mixture of water, alcohol, licorice, and Chinese star anise. In addition, there are also different versions of pastis that include a collaborative 72 plants.
There are several ways to enjoy pastis in cocktails, but the traditional serving method – and my personal preference – is to mix it with water and ice.
Cynar is an Italian aperitif that is made from 13 different herbs and plants.
The main plant used in this particular drink is the artichoke, a picture of which is proudly displayed on the front of the bottle.
This liquor is a bit stronger than others on the list at 16.5 percent ABV, and it boasts a dark brown color rather than a vibrant, appealing shade.
Cynar is an aperitif that you can enjoy by itself, but it’s also the main ingredient for several cocktails that can tone down its bitterness and alcohol content.
Some people like to serve it with soda, orange juice, or tonic water.
This aperitif is formally called Italicus Rosolio Di Bergamotto. Of course, no one has time to say all of that, hence its nickname Italicus.
It’s no secret that Italicus is of Italian roots. This award-winning aperitivo was a trend-setter, serving as an aperitivo far before other popular brands landed on the scene.
It has a light, citrusy flavor expertly paired with notes of rose and lavender.
Although the fresh citrus is evident, the drink itself is a balanced bitter and floral combination.
While you can enjoy Italicus on its own, it’s popularly served with equal parts Prosecco over ice. Add a few olives for a hint of salty goodness.
Lo-Fi Gentian Amaro
The Lo-Fi brand offers three products: sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, and California amaro.
Gentian Amaro is the latter of the three – a fortified wine-based spirit.
Despite the bold, red color of this aperitif, Gentian Amaro has a white wine base.
It’s then fortified with neutral grape-based spirits and adds interesting flavor notes such as floral, ginger, citrus, and berry.
Lo-Fi Gentian Amaro is crisp and fresh, but it’s also deeply complex and frankly, difficult to describe in full.
However, I believe its robust flavor pairs perfectly with light refreshments, and it makes an excellent spritz when mixed with soda.
Pimm’s No. 1
We’ve seen quite a few Italian aperitifs on our list today, so I thought I’d mix things up with something British.
Pimm’s No. 1 is refreshingly different from other aperitifs, boasting a gin base. It’s also stronger than a lot of other options.
Pimm’s is made using dry gin, liqueur, fruit juice, and a botanical blend of herbs and spices.
Its golden-brown color is a testament to its warm, caramelized flavor that hosts hints of orange and a spicy aftertaste.
Pimm’s is a great sipping drink. It also tastes incredibly served as a cocktail with lemon-lime soda over ice.
Garnish with a wide range of fresh ingredients, including strawberries, oranges, mint, and cucumbers.
Since 1920, Select Aperitivo has been the Venetian aperitivo of choice.
The gorgeous orange-red of the drink is sure to draw you in, but it’s the flavor that makes you stick around for more.
Select is a love ABV choice created with a carefully-picked blend of 30 botanicals from around the globe.
The unique blend is home to give different tasting notes: spicy, grassy, citrusy, floral, and balsamic. In short – your taste buds will never get bored.
If you’re a fan of complex flavors, Select is your aperitif of choice. It’s bitter, sweet, and full and makes the perfect spritz.
This French aperitif is made using a blend of white wines, making it crisp and refreshing.
Although it does have a hint of bitterness, the drink is home to an assortment of sweet and aromatic flavors like honey, flowers, raisins, and oranges.
These notes of sweetness pair perfectly with the bitterness of green apple, cinnamon, and spices.
If you crave something light alongside your appetizers and d’oeuvres, Lillet Blanc is great served chilled or with soda.