A Beginner's Guide to Aperitifs
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Aperitif comes from the Latin word aperire, meaning "to open." Typically defined as a drink you would have before a meal, most aperitifs are usually low in alcohol and mild tasting. The following is a list of some of the more popular aperitifs, as well as some cocktails to make with them.
Amer Picon: (French) A blend of African oranges, gentian root, quinine bark, and some alcohol. It is usually served with club soda or seltzer water with lemon.
Aperol: (Italian) Originally produced by the Padua-based company Barbieri, Aperol is now produced by the Campari company. While Aperol was originally created in 1919, it did not become successful until after World War II. Its ingredients are, among others, bitter orange, gentian, rhubarb, and cinchona. Although it looks, tastes, and smells much like Campari, it has a higher sugar content. Aperol has an alcohol content of 11% by volume — a little less than half of Campari.
Campari: (Italian) Slightly darker in color than Aperol, it is a unique combination of fruits, spices, herbs, and roots.
Cynar: (Italian) The distinctive flavor of this artichoke-based bitter liqueur is enriched from an infusion of 13 herbs and plants, making it a completely natural drink, rich in scents and unique in taste. It perfectly conserves all of the health properties of the ingredients used in its preparation. Only moderately alcoholic (16.5% alcohol by volume), Cynar is a modern and versatile drink that is always welcome.
Dubonnet: (American) This new aperitif is produced in California and is available in blond and red. Best served chilled.
Fernet-Branca: (Italian) A bitter, aromatic blend of approximately 40 herbs and spices (including myrrh, rhubarb, camomile, cardamom, and saffron) in a base of grape alcohol. A mint-flavored version called Branca Menta is also available.
Jägermeister: (German) Composed of 56 botanicals including citrus peel, aniseed, licorice, poppy seeds, saffron, ginger, juniper berries, and ginseng.
Lillet: (French) Made in Bordeaux from a blend of 85% fine Bordeaux wines and 15% fruit liqueurs. Lillet Blanc is made from Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon and has a golden color. Lillet Rouge is made from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and has a ruby-red color.
Pernod: (French) Comes from the essence of badiane (anise star) and from a spirit made from natural herbs, such as mint and balm.
Punt e Mes: (Italian) Vermouth with bitters and other botanicals added.
Ricard: (French) Made from anise, fennel (green anise), licorice, and other Provençal herbs.
Suze: (French) French bitters distilled from gentian root. Gentian is grown in the Auvergne and Jura regions and is a large, originally wild flower with golden petals. Not readily available in the United States.
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