Four Aperitifs to Drink Instead of Cocktails
If you want to mix me a Manhattan or stir me a Moscow Mule, I will never say no. But though I know I might be able to build a small kitchen-style minimalist liquor cabinet that yielded an impressively varied array of mixed drinks, I haven’t yet. Normally, I’m content to open a beer and then go make a mess in the kitchen instead of at the bar. Sometimes you just have to go with what obsesses you.
But I do love the premise of a drink before dinner, the sipping of something cold and a little bit sweet to put the day behind you and get your appetite ready for a meal. That thing just doesn’t have to be a cocktail.
So I thought I’d tell you about four aperitifs that you can pour straight from the bottle this summer. Each of these herb-infused liquors, most based off of wine, seem more special than wine or beer, yet they’re a whole lot less work than any cocktail. (All are great cocktail mixers, though, if we ever change our minds about mixing.) You can pour them right over ice. Or, if you want to do a little work, you can pour a half-inch of seltzer or champagne to make fizzes, and/or garnish with orange or lemon slices or rinds.
**Four Aperitifs to Drink Instead of Cocktails**
A friend brought me a bottle of Lillet more than five years ago. She was ahead of her time, or at least she beat me to it. Lillet is an aromatic French wine, just barely sweet and a tad citrusy. Of all the ones on this list, it’s the closest to wine, so it’s a good place to start branching out. Gift a bottle to rosé-loving friends when you can’t bring yourself to buy another 750ml of rosé. Some sticklers miss an extinct version of Lillet, called Kina Lillet, which has stronger herbal flavors and some bitterness, but if you’ve never had either, you’ll like Lillet, I promise. (And if you miss Kina Lillet, scroll all the way down for a replacement recommendation.)
There are a few wonderful Italian restaurants in our neighborhood, and since we don’t eat out all that much, when we do, we feast. That includes starting with an aperitif, and for me, that’s Cocchi Americano Bianco. It’s a summer drink, but that’s never prevented me from drinking it in winter. The drink has been made in Asti, Italy since 1891 by infusing white wine with “a secret blend of herbs and spices, to name a few, gentian, cinchona and bitter orange peels.” Sweet and bright at the start with a bitter finish, I can never get enough of this one. The Italian restaurants we like serve glasses with a twist of orange rind and two ice cubes.
A few summers ago, my mom heard about Aperol somewhere, and we decided it was the drink of the season. It looks the part, for sure, glowing pinkish-orange in the golden-hour light. The ingredient list contains herbs, orange, and rhubarb, and every sip goes down smoothly. This is your best bet of the four for celebrations, especially if you pour champagne on top for a bright, fizzy toast.
Tempus Fugit Kina L’Avion d’Or
To confuse things, both Cocchi Americano and Lillet are in a class of aperitifs called quinquinas (also sometimes just called kinas). The category originated as a way of making quinine, a cure for malaria, more palatable to those who had contracted the disease. All contain quinine’s source, cinchona bark, but where the former two are light and breezy, Kina L’Avion d’Or carries a balanced bitter punch that won’t have anyone wondering if this is too sugary to sip. I don’t have a picture: this one’s harder to find, so you might have to shop a few liquor stores or order online.