Searching for a New Aperitif

I finished my bottle of Lillet Red just before bed the other night.  After rinsing out the bottle and walking it down to the recycling bin, I couldn’t help but notice the gaping hole in my bar’s second row, a sad empty space where the bottle formerly resided.  It was like a tooth had been removed from my bar’s smiling face.  I was determined to use this vacancy to expand my aperitif horizons.

For me, aperitifs at home are infrequent indulgences.  On rare occasions I’ll have the time to enjoy one before dinner; I’m more likely to pour one following dinner, treating the drink instead as a digestif (or as a substitute for dessert altogether).  Many fortified wines and liqueurs traditionally considered either an aperitif or digestif may be appropriately taken either before or after the meal – I have seen no hard and fast rule declaring when one is or is not apropos.  Rather, I consider the two as one category and enjoy them based on my mood and taste, not on what course of dinner is served. 

It was from this singular category I decided to expand my horizon.  Instead of choosing a safe and familiar bottle of Lillet, Dubbonet, or Madeira, I wanted to try something completely different. 

Coincidentally, guidance was provided by Robert Simonson – journalist, fellow blogger, and Notable Drinker (see sidebar) – just when I needed it.  His New York Times article, Aperitifs, a Sip of Europe Before Dinner, provided a superb synopsis of not-yet-popular aperitif brands and bottles as one part of his description of the Northern Spy Food Co., a restaurant in Manhattan’s East Village.  Simonson’s article ticked off several semi-popular varieties, including Campari and Becherovka, with which I was already familiar.  More importantly however, were the rarer varieties I was not already acquainted with: Italian aperitivos such as Rabarbaro Zucca, Cocchi Americano, and Cardamaro amaro, as well as French aperitifs Maurin Quina and Bonal Gentiane Quina.  A few quick notes from the Times article was now an excellent short list of never-before-tasted bottles spanning the full spectrum between lightly sweet and darkly herbal.

What new and exciting flavors might I find?  I didn’t yet know, but I was certain to enjoy myself while finding and tasting as many as possible; an amusing and educational diversion with which to begin the summer.

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Published in: on June 15, 2011 at 8:11 am  Comments (6)  
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6 Comments

  1. I like how you roll THF!

    Ever see a movie called “Made” with Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughan? There’s a scene where Vince Vaughan and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs get into a big debate about Digestifs and Aperitifs. Something about Strega being an Aperitif and how you can’t “drink the witch after midnight”. Your post reminded me of that scene. Hilarious movie if you can tolerate Vince Vaughan being incredibly irritating for almost 2 hours.

    • Hey G-Lo – no, I haven’t seen that movie before. Usually I don’t find Vince Vaughan too irritating, but his recent stuff…no thanks!

      • It’s a very entertaining movie. Sort of a Swingers Part II, but not really. Favreau and Vaughan crack me up.

  2. I just picked up a bottle of Cocchi Americano and have really enjoyed it. I am looking forward to using it to make every drink that I normally put Lillet into. I also just got a bottle of of Creme de Yvette to replace my now empty Creme de Violette.

    • Thanks for the comment Tim. Where did you manage to find a bottle of Cocchi Americano?

      • Cairo wine and liquor dcwineguy.com
        Not as big as Ace Bev but nice selection all the same.


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