A nice piece by Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham in the Telegraph explores the idea of the aperitif, in many ways a lost art. It is of course the pre-prandial drink that stimulates the appetite and gets the gastric juices flowing to make the meal itself more of a pleasure. Sweet tea or coffee it is not, for an aperitif should tease the mouth and express “dry, bitter, light, herbal or sour elements.” Bitter is useful because it activates hormones and enzymes that aid digestion. The Italians gave us vermouth, Punt e Mes and herbal Campari. The French gave us fortified blends like Dubonnet, and the Spanish gloriously gave us dry sherry. I used to drink dry sherry before a meal as my aperitif of choice, preferring Apitivo slightly over Tio Pepe, and liking it served very cold indeed. Sometimes in Denmark I’ve gone for Akvavit, and I love it served from a bottle clad in a thick cylinder of ice a few inches thick.
There’s a story in the BBC News Magazine that bitter drinks are gaining in popularity, which is something I’ve noticed anecdotally. Aperol Spritz seems to be almost de rigueur among the smart and trendy set.
“I think the Aperol spritz was probably the most asked-for drink in the outdoor areas of most decent bars in London this summer,” says World Duty Free mixologist Charlie McCarthy.
Aperol, based on bitter orange and rhubarb, contains gentian and cinchona to enhance its bitter punch. Campari, with gin and sweet vermouth is also popular, and of course the classic dry Martini is classic for a good reason. Everyone has their own favourite recipe for it. Finally lexicographers should note that the aperitif is sometimes called a “pre-lash” in youthful circles. The origin is obvious. When setting out to get lashed, you start the evening with a pre-lash…
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