So many people enjoy a good glass of wine or a cocktail during or after dinner, but what about before dinner??
We asked Nino’s own resident Sommelier, Jennifer Laurie, to enlighten us with some her wine and mixology knowledge and to explain just what these drinks called Aperitifs really are?
Here’s what Jennifer has to say…
I generally give advice on what to have with dinner; what goes with Salmon? Steak? Lobster?
That’s all well and good, but what about before dinner? What do they mean by “whet your appetite?”
This is where an Aperitif comes in. An Aperitif is like a liquid appetizer, and derives its name from the Latin word aperire, meaning “to open.” Higher in alcohol than wine but lower than spirits, sometimes bitter, most of the time a touch sweet; they can be anything from champagne to cocktails.
Classic apertifs, like Lillet, Dubonnet, Campari, and that dusty bottle in the back of your cupboard, Vermouth, each have highly guarded secret recipes, involving many herbs, fruits and spices. The bittersweet character is thought to rouse gastric juices, promoting appetite. They may be an acquired taste, but, much like coffee, once you learn to love them, you crave their unique, palate-stimulating, flavors.
In 1846 Joseph Dubonnet, a Parisian chemist, concocted his now famous drink to help the soldiers in North Africa fight off malaria, by mixing quinine, fortified wine, and many herbs and spices. Many aperitifs use cinchona, the bark that quinine is derived from, making aperitifs popular when the soldiers came home and longed for the bittersweet liquid.
Although this was the heyday of aperitifs, many mixologists are still using them in cocktails today; whether in old school drinks like the Corpse Reviver #2, which uses Lillet Blanc, or newer innovations like an Aperol Spritz; Aperol and Prosecco. The later has become my new favorite cocktail, after my husband and I discovered it in Sicily. It’s refreshing and bright, combining a hint of orangey sweetness with unmistakable bitter finish.
It’s always fun and exciting to try new things, but what if you don’t like these wines and liquors on their own? Here are some cocktails that you can make if you don’t find yourself smitten with our selection of aperitifs.
1 1/2 oz. Gin (Plymouth or London dry style)
1 1/2 oz. Lillet
2 Dashes fresh orange juice
1 Dash apricot brandy
Tools: Shaker, strainer
Garnish: Lemon twist squeezed over top of drink
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into glass. Garnish.
Vesper (aka James Bond’s Martini)
3 oz. Gin
1 oz. Vodka
1/2 oz. Lillet Blanc
Tools: Shaker, strainer
Garnish: Lemon twist
Shake ingredients, strain into a chilled glass and garnish.
Aperol Spritz 3 oz. Prosecco
2 oz. Aperol
Splash of Soda or seltzer
Garnish: Half a slice of orange
Pour Aperol into glass with ice, fill with Prosecco and top with orange
1 oz. Gin
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Sweet vermouth
Tools: Mixing glass, bar spoon, strainer
Glass: Cocktail or double rocks
Garnish: Orange twist
Stir ingredients in a mixing glass, strain into a chilled cocktail glass (or ice-filled double rocks glass) and garnish.
I hope I’ve enlightened your knowledge of aperitifs and encouraged you to try out some new cocktails! Happy imbibing!