A Sofrittini

Aperitifs 101, Class is in Session

An apéritif (plural, apéritifs) is a French phrase meaning “to open, or expose.” These fragrant, quick drinks whet the appetite and prepare your palate and stomach to absorb the flavors in food.

The Italians call it aperitivo (plural aperitivi). They are parlor drinks common in Europe, particularly in France and Italy. In many restaurants, they serve apéritifs along with the dinner service, and you do not have to have a complete meal. Many countries also make it a practice to enjoy drinks with friends after work, perhaps with light appetizers—it’s a time to unwind. It’s like the American happy hour.

What is an Apéritif?

It is an alcoholic drink you serve before a meal to stimulate your appetite. Liquid appetizers are also perfect for entertaining guests during the pre-dinner mingling session. You can also do this at home when preparing dinner—it’s an ideal way to wind down from your day. The pleasures of drinking apéritifs come in many forms, from Campari and Aperol to cocktails like the martini.

Do They Work and How?

Since aperitifs stimulate appetites, the drink should be dry (low in sugar) to avoid limiting appetite and soft in alcohol since no one wants to get drunk before dinner. The high alcohol content of wines can also dull our taste buds—California Zinfandels need bold and aggressive flavors to break through—otherwise, the high alcohol content will mask all flavors.

Classic aperitifs include dry vermouth, gin, bubbles, and dry white wine. For an apéritif, a dry martini is a perfect drink. Just don’t indulge in too many, as the apéritif may lose its purpose and lessen your appetite once you’ve become intoxicated.

Are There Different Types?

Yes! The key ingredients of apéritifs are wine and spirits. Fortified and sparkling wines are excellent pre-dinner drinks, as well as light cocktails. Here are some examples of wine-based apéritifs.

What are the Most Common Aperitifs?

North Americans consume aperitifs in a typical cocktail form or as part of a cocktail. Several classic cocktails, including the Martini, Manhattan, Negroni, Americano, Bronx, and Vesper Martini, use French or Italian spirits mixed with whiskey, gin, or vodka.

However, in their native regions, people enjoy these light, effervescent, spirit- or wine-based beverages straight or diluted with soda, juice, and ice. You can serve an apéritif alone. Many are best served chilled in snifters or small cordial glasses to enhance the aromatics. Serve them over ice to soften and open up in flavor and aroma. The traditional apéritif time is 30-60 minutes before your reserved dinner time.

For those looking to order an aperitif the next time you are at Fine & Rare, we have put together a guide to help you choose.

Apéritifs Wine


Wine Aperitif




The Spanish equivalent of Champagne is Cava. Cava comes in a variety of sweet and dry flavors. A dry (brut) Cava is the best choice.


Dry rosé wine

Provence rosé or a crisp Pinot Noir rosé make great pre-meal aperitifs.


Sauvignon Blanc 

Sauvignon Blanc is a crisp apéritif wine with grassy and herbal notes. Try a crisp, savory Sancerre from France’s Loire Valley or New Zealand’s Marlborough region.



This saline Chablis wine from Burgundy proves to be a perfect apéritif, thanks to its lean and acidic nature



Known as a “fortified” wine, vermouth is used to prepare drinks like the classic martini. Choose dry vermouth.



Those who enjoy a sweeter flavor might enjoy Dubonnet. Sweet, fortified wine with flavors of spices and herbs.


Lillet Blanc 

With a slightly sweet taste, you can enjoy Lillet Blanc blended crisp citrus liqueurs with Bordeaux wine grapes and chilled.



It is an Italian beverage that is dry or sweet and sparkling, semi-sparkling, or flat. Select an extra brut or brut Prosecco (dry or sparkling).


Dry Champagne or sparkling wine

It is also possible to have sparkling wine or Champagne that is sweet or dry; choose the dry (brut or extra brut) variations.

10Dry Sherry

Sherry can range from lighter and drier styles to heavier and sweeter ones. Choose a light, dry type of sherry to serve as an apéritif. Some examples are Fino or Manzanilla Fina.

Spirits to Enjoy as an Apéritif

As an apéritif, spirits are often bitter and low in sugar. The alcohol content of apéritif spirits is also relatively low compared to other types of spirits. Apéritif blends well with spirits in cocktails, or you can consume straight up on the rocks.


Spirit Aperitif



Ouzo Greece is home to the anise-flavored liquor ouzo. Float a frozen water splash over the beverage to keep it cool.



It’s a popular Italian apéritif. The infusion contains fruit and herbs. Add a splash of soda to Campari and serve over ice or use it in cocktails.



Similar to Campari, Aperol contains less alcohol and is less bitter. Infuse it into a classic Aperol Spritz.



Classic martinis combine gin or vodka with dry vermouth to create the perfect pre-dinner cocktail.



Raki is a licorice-flavored liqueur which is a traditional beverage in Turkey and Albania. The conventional method is to drink it with water or ice in a shot glass or kadeh.


Pimm’s No. 1

Pimm’s No. 1 contains gin, fruit, bitter herbs, and quinine. For a classic British apéritif, serve it over ice in lemonade or ginger ale.

7Pernod and Pastis:

Serve Pernod and Pastis chilled with water to make liqueurs with anise flavors. Add the liqueur to a glass and then the water. Ice is optional.

Apéritif Cocktails

Having an apéritif cocktail before dinner is also an option. Many of these cocktails are extremely dry, sometimes with a hint of bitterness.


Apéritif Cocktail 




Adding gin and sweet vermouth to Campari results in a sunset-colored cocktail.


Vesper Martini

Bond’s favorite dry martini recipe calls for gin and Lillet Blanc (shaken, not stirred).


Aperol spritz (Spritz Veneziano)

Prosecco, Aperol, and soda add spice to this drink.


Gin and tonic

Gin, tonic water, and lemon make a classic apéritif full of bitter and aromatic flavors.


Vodka tonic

Using vodka and tonic water, this variation is simple with ice and less aromatic than the traditional gin and tonic drink.


Kir Royale

For a classic apéritif cocktail, combine 3 oz. Chilled Champagne with 13.5 oz. Crème de cassis.