Ready, Set, Aperitif! - everything you ever needed to know about the illusive, diverse and utterly delicious ultimate party starters.
You say Aperitif, I say AperitivoApéritifs are alcoholic drinks or liqueurs that are served before meals in order to stimulate an appetite, or during to aid in digestion.
Pre-meal apéritifs are commonly served with something small to eat, such as crackers, cheese, pâté, or olives. Apéritif is a French word, derived from the Latin verb aperire, meaning ‘to open’.
Common varieties of liqueur chosen as an apéritif are amari, bitters, brandy, grappa, herbal liqueur, limoncello, ouzo, tequila, and whisky. If an apéritif is a bitters, it will contain bitter or carminative herbs, which are thought to aid digestion. Some wines - usually fortified wines - are served as apéritifs, such as sherry, port, and dry champagne.
By the 16th century people were producing flavoured spirits with herbs and spices for medicinal purposes. In the early days they tasted very bitter so the early producers of apéritif made the flavours more acceptable by diluting ingredients in wine.
One possible origin is in 1846 and attributed to a French chemist who created a wine-based drink as a means to administer the anti-malaria medicine quinine to French Foreign Legion soldiers abroad. The medicine was a bitter brew, so he developed a formula of herbs and spices to mask quinine's sharp flavour, and it worked so well that the recipe has remained well-guarded ever since. Joseph's wife was so fond of the drink that she had all her friends try it, and its popularity spread.
Historical anecdote aside, some maintain that the notion on drinking a small glass of alcohol before dinner dates back to the time of the Ancient Egyptians. Contemporary historical records however, point to 1786 in Turin, Italy, when Antonio Benedetto Carpano invented vermouth. In later years, vermouth was produced and sold by such well-known companies as Martini, Cinzano, and Gancia.
Whatever the whence-abouts; apéritifs were already widespread in the 19th century in Italy, where they were being served in fashionable cafés in Rome, Venice, Florence, Milan, Turin, and Naples.
Apéritifs became very popular in Europe in the late 19th century. By 1900, they were also commonly served in the United States. In Spain and in some countries of Latin America, apéritifs have been a staple of tapas cuisine for centuries.
Contemporary ApéritifsContemporarily, apéritifs are increasingly enjoyed worldwide in a variety of different ways and with a multitude of different choices of liqueur to constitute an apéritif.
In Greece, ouzo is a popular choice; in France it is pastis or fortified wine.
In Italy, vermouth or bitters may be served; with popular brands including Campari, Cinzano, Byrrh, and Suze.
In the Eastern Mediterranean, arak is served with mezze, and elsewhere advocates whisky, bourbon, tequila or Pimm’s No.1.