Aperitifs are drinks that are enjoyed before a meal. The word “aperitif” is derived from the Latin “aperire”, which means “to open”. This refers above all to the opening of the palate. Aperitifs are either wine-based spirits or aniseed-based spirits, bitter aperitifs and vermouth. Before dinner drinks include all mixed drinks that are “dry”. “Dry” means that there is no or very little sugar in the mixed drink. As the name suggests, these drinks are usually served before the meal (“before dinner” is English and means something like “before the meal”). The dry character is intended to stimulate the appetite. For this reason, the drinks are served before the meal.
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Negroni - A classic bitter aperitif
The Negroni cocktail belongs to the “family” of bitter aperitifs. Freely translated, this means something like “bitter medicine”. Originally, this type was made for medicinal purposes from herbs, roots, berries and peels. The main medicinal use was by ship’s doctors to treat sailors plagued by tropical infections with quinine.
The first time a bitter aperitif was made was around 1820 by a doctor named Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert from over 40 herbs to treat fever and stomach ailments. These bitters were named after the local town: Angostura. Today, the most famous bitter is named after this town: Angostura bitters.
The sailors soon found out that this medicine could be drunk much more pleasantly by adding water. Thus the first cocktails were invented. Bitters were already extremely high-proof. Nowadays, the bitter aperitif is indispensable. Before a meal, as an appetiser, this type will probably never be forgotten.
Wine-based spirits - wine aperitifs
The Aquavit line is produced in Norway, more precisely in Oslo, by the Arcus As family. The distillate has an excellent caraway flavour and can therefore be served particularly well as an after-dinner drink. After approx. 19 months of storage in former sherry barrels, the aquavit has a golden yellow colour. During this 19-month maturation period, the barrels are on ships that cross the equator at least twice during this time. On the back of each bottle, the name of the ship and the period of the voyage are noted, so that buyers can see exactly which route the ship took and where exactly the ship crossed the equator.
The Aquavit line stands out above all for its mild yet spicy taste. The spirit can best be compared to caraway seeds. In Germany (mostly in northern Germany), aquavit is stored in the freezer and then served ice-cold as a shot after a meal.
Italian bitter aperitifs are the best known of their kind. Characteristic of a “real” bitter aperitif is its red colour and low alcohol content. In addition, the spirit can be optimally used in cocktails. Most of the bitter aperitif production is done in Italy, but there are also some producers in Switzerland. Normally, a bitter aperitif is not drunk neat. Rather, the spirit is extended by adding a filler and then drunk that way. Below you can discover various other bitter aperitif cocktail recipes and prepare them yourself.
Vermouth is by far the best known and largest group of wine aperitifs. The spirit usually comes from France or Italy and always consists of wormwood herb. In the past, vermouth was used as a medicine and was prescribed for illnesses. Today, Vermouth is mostly used to make delicious and tasty cocktails aperitifs and digestifs.
Vermouth was invented as early as the 18th century and since then it is hard to imagine professional cocktail bars without it as a cocktail ingredient. Carpano is the name of the first company to start producing the spirit in the heart of Turin. To this day, the brand stands for excellent and delicious Vermouth, which is used all over the world for the preparation of aperitifs.
What is an aperitif anyway?
Strictly speaking, an aperitif is a slightly alcoholic drink that is drunk exclusively before a meal. The consumption of this drink is intended to stimulate and excite the appetite. The drinks that count as aperitifs are above all aniseed-flavoured spirits or wine-based spirits (including bitter, flavoured and fortified wines). Besides the Negroni, the Manhattan Cocktail and the Old Fahioned, but also the Sidecar and the Dry Martini are among the best-known aperitif recipes. In Germany, beer is almost exclusively enjoyed as an aperitif, but in other countries ouzo mixed with water or champagne cocktails are also enjoyed.