There’s probably loads of cocktail terminology you’re already familiar with. Spritzer, on-the-rocks and martini are pretty well-known and self-explanatory terms. One you might have heard a whole bunch without particularly understanding, though, is aperitif.
You’ve probably heard the word aperitif banded around on cocktail menus or on holiday. You might have even used it yourself without necessarily knowing EXACTLY what’s meant by aperitif or aperitivo.
That’s why we spoke to Francesco Betti, one of the cocktail masters behind the new Bow Bar in the London Metropole Hotel, who says aperitifs are *the* classic cocktail group that everyone’s going to be sipping on this summer.
According to Francesco, here’s what ‘aperitif’ actually means, its purpose and where it comes from.
What does aperitif mean?
It’s not just incredible food that the Italians are known for. They also know how to properly prep for a big sit-down meal, too. An aperitif is a dry or fizzy alcoholic drink, originating from Italy, usually consumed before food. Aperitif comes from the Italian word “Aperitivo,” which literally translates as “appetiser”. Makes sense, right?
The concept of an aperitif comes from Italian culture as well, where it’s customary to sit down with a drink and a little salty snack before dinner – the Italian equivalent of gin o’clock, but on a veranda in the Italian countryside or in a bustling piazza at golden hour instead. The dream.
In Italy, it’s called an aperitivo, whereas you might more commonly see the French spelling – aperitif – in the UK.
Is an aperitif before or after dinner?
An aperitif or aperitivo, depending on which part of Europe you’re in, is traditionally drunk before food to stimulate your mouth and stomach and get you ready for the big evening meal.
An aperitif is usually dry, tart or fizzy, all of which naturally stimulate saliva production. What’s more, salivating helps to improve our palate and our sense of taste. The more you know!
What are examples of an aperitif?
You’re probably already drinking aperitifs and aperitivos without even realising it. That Aperol Spritz you opt for when the sun is shining down in the pub garden? Aperitif. That glass of Prosecco or bubbly at a wedding reception? Yep, aperitif. That Campari-laden Negroni at the cocktail bar before you sit down for dinner? You get the gist.
Pretty much any dry alcoholic drink (white wine, vermouth, martini…) or anything fizzy and slightly tart (Prosecco, gin and tonic, Aperol spritz…) is technically classed as an aperitif.
What is the difference between aperitif and digestif?
Whereas aperitif comes from the Italian for “appetiser” (AKA, before dinner), digestif comes from the Italian for “digestive”, AKA, after dinner.
So, while an aperitif is specifically designed to help get your body in the mood for food, a digestif is on-hand to round everything up nicely and lightly aid digestion.
Digestifs tend to be liqueurs or fortified wines and tend to be slightly sweet. Fortified wines like port; sweet liqueurs like amaretto and Baileys; sharp liqueurs like limoncello and Amaro… All digestifs.
A good way to figure out if it’s a digestif is look at the glass it’s coming in: digestifs tend to come either in a cut-glass tumbler like a whiskey on the rocks, or in a teeny tiny thimble of a wine glass, like port.
Aperitifs, on the other hand, are usually a longer drink served in a wine glass or champagne flute, or in a highball glass over ice. If the drink makes you think of sunshine and drinking outdoors: probably an aperitif. If it makes you think of curling up by a fire in an evening: digestif. Easy!
Are aperitifs a summer drink?
According to Francesco Betti, master mixologist behind the new Bow Bar in the London Metropole Hotel, this summer’s cocktail trends are all about pairing things back and keeping the classics simple – and that includes aperitifs.
With bars back open and summer holidays once more on the menu, Francesco predicts that clean-cut, classic aperitifs such as the gin and tonic and the Americano (Campari, vermouth and soda) are going to be the drink of the moment.
Our fave aperitif that we’re going to be loving all summer? This French 75 cocktail recipe combines two of our bar cart go-tos: gin and bubbly (or Prosecco!) for a sweet-meets-sharp tipple that’s bound to get that mouth watering.