Though it sounds overly fancy, an apéritif is simply defined as an alcoholic beverage designed to stimulate the appetite. You’ve probably heard of a few classic cocktails of this sort before, possibly without realizing what they were — the Negroni and the Aperol Spritz both fall into the category. Commonly consumed in Europe (though undoubtedly popular elsewhere, too), they’re perfect for sipping before dinner, or even just having in hand for a post-work kickback. Which is why it’s time to put a few more apéritif cocktails on your radar.
And no, you don’t have to be a professional mixologist to put these together. The list ahead features expert-recommended drinks, all requiring few ingredients and a pared-back instructions list. In fact, while they were already perfect for some pre-dinner imbibing, their ease makes them even more so. After all, it’s not likely you want to try out a complicated recipe before you even start cooking.
Ready to whet your appetite and kick back? Keep scrolling for apéritif cocktails that will help you do just that.
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“This is the ultimate date night pre-dinner drink,” Lillet Brand Ambassador Lauren Trickett tells TZR. “It pairs wonderfully with oysters and chilled shrimp making it a great way to start a fancy night out. Martinis are sophisticated and classic; a 50/50 [is] for the drinker who believes in living it up and enjoying the moment.”
Start by assembling 1.5 ounces of Lillet Blanc, 1.5 ounces of gin, and two dashes of orange bitters. With ice, stir those together in a mixing glass and then strain into a chilled martini glass. As for the finisher? “I often do a lemon and an olive — why choose just one garnish!” says Trickett.
According to Daniel Warrilow, Italian Portfolio Ambassador for Campari, the Averna Limonata “combines some of Sicily’s most cherished ingredients, including citrus and sage.” To make it, assemble one and a half parts Amaro Averna, a half part lemon juice, a half part sage-infused simple syrup, and two parts sparkling water. Combine the former three in a cocktail glass full of ice; top with the sparkling water, and garnish with a lemon wheel and sage leaf.
“Combining all of these ingredients delivers a thirst-quenching highball with deep flavors of herbs, botanicals, and citrus,” says Warrilow. “A perfect drink for aperitivo, just before dinner."
Barrel Aged Negroni
Food and Beverage Manager of El Encanto, A Belmond Hotel, Richard Hollowell, suggests a *slightly* fancier version of the Negroni that the hotel serves.
“Our best apéritif cocktail is hands down our ‘signature’ barrel aged Negroni,” he shares. The recipe features 3/4 ounce of Nolet’s Gin, 3/4 ounce of Campari, and 3/4 ounce of Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth. The recipe is then “aged in American oak barrels for 45 days”; afterward, simply pour over an ice sphere and stir, garnishing with an orange rind. (And of course, you can skip the whole aging thing if you’re in a bit of a hurry — the classic recipe will still taste great.)
“We love a classic cocktail that's perfectly suited as an apéritif,” says Hayward Dorsette, bartender at the Rosewood Baha Mar in Nassau, Bahamas. “The French 75 dates to World War I in 1915, when a French bartender named the drink after a French gun that was known to carry a punch.”
The recipe itself is simple: All you need is 1/2 ounce of lemon juice, 1/2 ounce of syrup, and 1 ounce of gin. Shake the mixture over ice, strain into a flute, and then top with your Champagne of choice and a lemon twist.
The Aperol Spritz has been an iconic apéritif for decades; as Warrilow previously told TZR, it’s “truly one of the best ways to imagine and re-create an Italian getaway from the comfort of your home.”
The classic recipe is an easy one: It only requires equal parts Prosecco and Aperol topped with soda, ice, and an orange slice. Though if you’re feeling especially lazy (ahem, relaxed), you can also just spring for Aperol’s new, limited-release pre-mixed cocktail — for that, all you need to add is ice.
“Fully Loaded is a stirred aperitif that maintains the robust body of a bourbon, paired with the stone fruit aromas of Pedro Ximenez Sherry Wine, and the clean taste of dry vermouth,” says Sebastian Ortiz, bartender at Sugar at EAST Miami.
To make the drink yourself, assemble 1.5 ounces of Rebel bourbon, 1/2 ounce of Pedro Ximenez Sherry Wine, 1/2 ounce of dry vermouth, 1/2 ounce of ancho chile liqueur, and three dashes of Angostura bitters. Combine these in a mixing glass filled with ice and stir gently. Serve strained into a frosted coupe and garnish with a lemon twist.
Michele Alfonso, Food and Beverage Manager at Gurney's Resort, tells TZR this cocktail is a riff on the classic Moscow mule and perfect for enjoying as a pre-dinner drink.
For the recipe, you’ll need Varnelli Anice Secco to rinse the glass, 1 ounce of Amaro Sibilla, 3/4 ounce of lemon juice, 1/2 ounce of ginger syrup, 1/4 ounce of honey, and a splash of ginger beer. Build this in a chilled rocks glass, and garnish with a sprig of tarragon or mint.
“This cocktail is one of the most popular aperitivos at Longo Bros,” says Antonio Iacca, Beverage Director at Longo Bros in NYC. “We wanted a refreshing cocktail, light but full of flavor, definitely not banal.”
To make this, the restaurant combines 1.5 ounces of Poli Gin Marconi 42, 1/2 ounce of handmade basil coconut syrup (inspired by the book La Grammatica dei Sapori), and 1/2 ounce of lime juice in a glass over ice. The drink is then topped with ginger beer and garnished with a basil leaf.