An aperitif encourages appetite. Aperire is Latin, meaning to open.
Aperitif comes from the Latin word "aperio", meaning "to open." An aperitif is most often a wine derivative, meant to "open" the meal. It's an appetizer in beverage form - a light nip to stimulate the taste buds.
Some popular aperitifs are:
- vermouths, wines fortified with herbs and light spices.
- cocktails, including martinis, daiquiris and Bloody Marys. Any drink made with white spirits such as gin and vodka is suitable as an aperitif. Gin and soda is a classic pre-dinner drink.
- liqueurs, especially light ones made with fruit make a unique and delightful aperitif
- sherries, which some gourmands consider more suitable for dessert, though a 3 or 4 oz. glass is fine as an aperitif
- other flavored alcohols, which can include infusions and blends. Some of these are syrupy and can be served over ice or mixed with other beverages such as iced tea
- wine spritzers and other coolers are also becoming increasingly acceptable as aperitifs
Wine, champagne and beer can also be used as aperitifs.
Discretion and moderation are the key to the perfect aperitif. If the drink is heavy, you want to use a small measure to merely tease the senses. Of course, a properly measured aperitif can also loosen the tongue to stimulate gourmet dinner repartee.
Another tip: properly cool vermouths, liqueurs and other aperitifs. You can even set them in the freezer for half an hour. Chilled liquid truly stimulates appetite, which is your objective.
If your guests are sensitive to alcohol, it is necessarily polite to have non-alcoholic beverages on hand - iced tea is wonderful.
A great way to sample vermouths and other aperitifs is to purchase them as part of a sample or gift basket. You can also find gourmet gift baskets with only vermouths, spritzers and other traditional aperitifs.