The purpose of an aperitif is to entice your senses and to excite the palate, to get the juices flowing and… well… to get the buzz going.
Aperitifs are a funny thing though – in the United States – few people know what they are and how to use them. They’re in almost every bar (if you look in the top shelf, covered in dust and to the left of the Cognacs) but most bartenders don’t know what the hell they’re for! They know how to put it in a shot, pour it on the rocks or shake it up and put it in a martini… creative huh?
The irony is that these liqueurs can make some of the most delicious cocktails you could ever try (and they’re super easy) but neither the drinker nor the drink-maker know about them.
If a bottle of liqueur isn’t used in a bar, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound when it cries? Yes it does.
I picked two aperitifs to focus on this time – Campari and Aperol. These Italian legends are two of the most typical liqueurs that you might find at a bar unless you’re in the deep south or in a town where the bar doubles as a gun store (in which case, well… finding Campari is the least of your problems). They’re both red-ish colored Italian bitters made by the same company. They’re both infusions of fruit and herbs in a bitter liqueur – where Campari has a heavier, rich wood-rhubarb-floral flavor profile, Aperol is lighter with mandarin and orange peel, higher sugar content and almost half the alcohol. Some people think they’re like Coca-Cola and Pepsi but the difference is actually more like Sprite and Lemonade; there’s similarities in the flavor profiles but they’re done completely differently.
In Europe, these are most commonly had on the rocks or in a cordial glass. They are also drank in simple spritzer cocktails with soda or with a fresh juice.
I’m gonna suggest sticking to what they’ve already discovered in Europe – the simpler the better, Here are three quick cocktails to try (and that will be easy to describe to the average bartender) – Aperol Orange, Aperol Spritz and a Negroni. If you’re making them at home, remember your proportions (or buy a jigger already): a tablespoon equals a half ounce so two tablespoons equal an ounce.
4-5 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
Directions: Pour ingredients into a rocks glass, stir… Drink! Garnish with a slice of orange.
3 oz prosecco
Splash of soda
Directions: Add Aperol and prosecco to a glass full of ice. Stir. Top with a splash of soda. Add a slice of orange as a garnish.
1 oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth or Noilly Prat Sweet Vermouth
1 oz Campari
Directions: Mix three ingredients into a large glass, stir, strain into a martini glass (or serve on the rocks). Garnish with an orange zest. (Home tip: Use a peeler to peel a nice piece of orange instead of zesting)
Important tip: Measure the ingredients! Any cocktail (but especially the Negroni) tastes amazing when they’re measured and the proportions are right. When there’s too much of one or not enough of the other, it’s all of the sudden too bitter or too sweet. It’s kind of like baking – too much flour or too much sugar and it’s not the way it is supposed to be. If you don’t have a jigger, measure out the exact proportions with spoons, shot glasses, measuring cups, candle holders, thimbles, ANYTHING; just make sure the proportions are 1:1:1.
So that was easy enough for you to make at home and easy enough to ask your bartender to make right? Now go reward yourself with a nice, refreshing bitter cocktail before dinner today!
Thanks for reading!
I love booze. I hope you love booze too.