Whether you’re enjoying a special-occasion feast at your favorite restaurant or a quiet dinner at home, tucking into a pre-dinner drink is a fun way to kick off a meal.
Aperitifs can stimulate your appetite and prepare your stomach for a delicious plate of food. But what are they, exactly? Below, we explain with some help from drinks pros.
What Is an Aperitif?
Simply put, an aperitif is an alcoholic drink consumed before a meal. It’s a French term, pronounced “a-peh-ruh-teef.” An aperitif is the same thing as an aperitivo, which is the Italian version.
Aperitifs typically include beverages that have a low alcohol content and are made with herbal ingredients that stimulate your appetite and digestive system, says Timo Torner, founder of Cocktail Society.
An aperitif can include wines, fortified wines, bitters or herbal liqueurs. “They’re rather dry and often slightly bitter since sugar tends to reduce the appetite for savory food,” says Torner.
What’s the Difference Between an Aperitif and a Digestif?
The opposite of an aperitif is a digestif, which is an after-dinner drink. Digestifs are meant aid digestion and improve overall gut health.
How Do You Drink an Aperitif?
These drinks are usually served chilled, over ice, with tonic or soda or mixed into a light cocktail for a refreshing pre-meal experience, adds Debbie Jones, sommelier of Ellen’s Wine & Spirits in New York.
“A classic aperitif cocktail would be a Negroni or spritz,” she says. “However, an aperitif could be a refreshing light white wine—sparkling or Champagne.”
Since the drinks tend to be lower in alcohol by volume (ABV), you might enjoy one or two with hors d’oeuvres before eating, notes Yuval Bar-kokhba, wine director and sommelier at Her Name Was Carmen and La Rubia restaurants in New York. “It’s all about relaxing, slowing down and taking a break to socialize and share a moment with friends and family before a meal.”