Here’s Why You Should Always Drink an Apéritif Before Dinner
One of the best-kept secrets of European culinary culture is the apéritif. An apéritif (a word derived from the Latin term aperire, “to open”) is an alcoholic beverage, usually low-proof, sipped before the start of a meal that simultaneously stimulates the appetite, relaxes the diner, and preps the digestive tract for the coming meal. Originally concocted by doctors in the Middle Ages by muddling different herbs and botanicals with alcohol, these beverages were consumed to alleviate stomach pains and digestive issues.
Apéritifs can be made created out of an endless list of ingredients, but they traditionally fall into one of three categories: fortified wines such as sherry, vermouth, or such brand-name concoctions as Lillet; bitters such as Campari, Cynar, or Aperol; or anise-based drinks such as arak, ouzo, anisette, or Pernod. The low(er) alcohol content of these drinks, which usually ranges from 10 to 24 percent ABV, is designed to relieve diners of stress, open up their palates, and engage their senses, rather than get them drunk.
Research supports what has long been known in European and Mediterranean culinary cultures: An apéritif stimulates the appetite and the digestive tract. The herbal and floral flavors of traditional apéritifs give off a bitter note that the body interprets as a poison, sending a signal to the brain that stimulates digestion. But what is most beneficial about the pre-dinner apéritif is that it slows the pace of dinner. Quickly devouring meals, which has become an unfortunate trademark of American dining, leads to overeating, and a number of stomach issues such as bloating and flatulence. So relax, sip your Campari or Pernod as if you are at an Italian trattoria or a French bistro, and gradually prepare yourself for dinner.