Derived from the Latin word for ‘to open’, the aperitif has become an important part of our dining experience, but what makes a true aperitif?
Well the answer is, anything you choose. There are no hard and fast rules about what drink, or indeed food, can be served as an aperitif and that’s because an aperitif is not so much a ‘what’ as a ‘when’.
A moment in time
The true aperitif is a ‘moment’, it is the drink with which you open a meal, greet friends, begin your evening or lunch, it is a settling in and preparing for the enjoyment of the meal ahead.
It is the spirit of welcome and pleasure of the aperitif, which probably explains the wide variety of drinks served in its name. Ultimately any drink you enjoy and want to share with friends from a cocktail to a cold beer can be a perfect aperitif.
That being said, because of its role as a pre-dinner drink, aperitifs are traditionally light, dry alcoholic drinks such as champagne, light white or rosé wines, dry sherry, anise-flavoured liqueurs or wine based drinks such as vermouth, Lillet, Dubonnet or Campari rather than heavy or sweet drinks.
The desire to stimulate the appetite rather than dampen it is also the thinking behind the light snacks often served as part of an aperitif. Small bites such as amuse-bouche, tapas, olives, nuts or crisps help work the diner towards a meal rather than fill them up.
So what makes a true aperitif? Well the answer is, you do. If you take the time to relax with friends, share a glass of something delicious while you unwind into the ideal mood for a long, leisurely meal then you have mastered the art of the perfect aperitif.
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- Find out why GQ’s editor-in-chief Jim Nelson fell for the spirit of the aperitif.