There’s more to an apero and aperitif than Kir, Campari, Martini, or Aperol. Open your eyes to some alternative classy meal openers.
Hannibal Lechter is an unlikely celebrity endorsement, but he was fond of his Lillet, an aromatized wine from Podensca near Bordeaux. The original 1887 Kina Lillet was with quinine, made from the kina-kina or cinchona tree. It counts Mrs. Simpson, Louis Pasteur, and James Bond among its admirers. In the original 1953 novel, “Casino Royale,” Bond invented a “Vesper.” “In a deep champagne goblet. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Got it?”
Brothers Paul and Raymond Lillet were wine and spirit merchants. The idea for an aperitif came from a Brazilian doctor, Father Kermann, who made plant fortifiers”. “Blanc” when other aperitifs were red, Lillet was the only aperitif from a specific geographic location, Great Sauternes ( now the Bordeaux and Graves appellation). Lillet Rose was launched in 2011. “Lillet” is the preferred drink of Thomas Harris’s infamous serial killer.
From the cellar of Kalmoesfontein and the mountain slopes of the Paardeberg, South Africa’s Caperitif is Chenin Blanc fortified with spirit, gently sweetened by the sugar of the grapes, bittered by quinoa bark, and flavored with 35 ingredients from the Cape, such as fynbos, kalmoes, and naartjie. A taste of the Cape floral kingdom revived after a century by Danish mixologist Lars Erik Lyndgaard Schmidt and Adi Badenhorst.
Pampelle Ruby L’Apero
Enter the sweetly bitter world of a new French apero. Try it with soda or cheer up your spritz with “an artisanal contradiction of bitter-sweet citrus and natural botanicals.” Made from the infusion of citrus peels, natural botanicals, and Eau de Vie with ruby red grapefruit from the Mediterranean island of Corsica. Crafted on the banks of the River Charente in the Cognac region of France. www.pampelle.com
Licor Beirão, commonly known as Beirão, is a Portuguese liqueur from the Beira region. It is the beer which isn’t a beer which is an aperitif. Production first began in the nineteenth century in Louisa using double-distilled mint, cinnamon, cardamom, and lavender. It was initially made as a medicine for stomach complaints. It is still produced and bottled at Quinta do Meiral.
Best enjoyed 50/50 with Prosecco over ice and garnished with no less and no more than three olives! Giuseppe Gallo’s Italicus Rosolio Di Bergamotto spiced Italian liqueur is based on an original recipe from the 1850s. Made near Torino by the traditional safe process, with Calabrian bergamot, Sicilian, Cedro lemons, Lazio chamomile, lavender, yellow roses, Melissa balm, and gentian, its roots lie in an old drink Rosolio di Torino, which goes back to Catherine de Medici. The drink was banned by the 19th Century King and vermouth fan Vittorio Amedeo III. The bottle is based on a Roman column. Its glass was inspired by Capri’s Grotta Azzura. “L’Aperitivo de Corte” ( aperitif of the kings) – the dew of the sun – retails for $45.
Edinburgh via London via Corbier, Saumur in France, self-proclaimed “gypsy distillers” Daniel Fisher and Andrew Macleod Smith’s take on eighteenth-century Gaelic water of life, “Usquebaugh,” is a gin that isn’t a gin. It is juniper-free and infused with raisins, vanilla, and saffron. Having traveled the world making spirits – including a moonshine in Brooklyn- the gents at Sweet Dram would like you to sip yours on its own or with a tonic. Make yours an E&T now. From $21.99, Also try their Whisky, Amaro. www.sweetdram.com
Cool is ordering a drink made from artichokes. Launched in 1952, low sugar low alcohol Cynar is made from thirteen herbs and plants. Best with orange juice, But don’t discount as a digestif either. Now part of the Campari Group, it remains a heritage aperitif.
As does Ambassadeur made by Pernod-Ricard. The Cusenier Ambassadeur apéritif was introduced in France in 1846 when a French chemist, Joseph Dubonnet, created his iconic tipple as a means of disguise the awful taste of malaria preventing quinine not long after Eugène Cusenier established a distillery in Ornans in 1868—made amongst other things, with Chinese bark.
Malfy con Arnacia
This Malfy con Arnacia orange gin comes from the Vergnano family who has been distilling in Moncalieri for over 100 years—distilled using Sicilian blood orange peels and Italian juniper, alongside just four other botanicals. Mix with peach liqueur and soda water for a long fruity drink. Monks first made gin on the Amalfi coast in 1050. So gin o’clock should be ten to eleven a.m.
Dolin’s Couer de Genipi
Made from wildflowers in the Savoyard, this liqueur remembers a confectioner inspired by the Grand Chartreuse monks. Years ago, Monsieur Chavasse was creating liquors with names, like “Amour sans Fin” (Endless Love), “Lait de Vieillesse” (Milk of Old Age), and “Eau Napoléon” (Napoleon Water). Dolin’s also makes “Chamberyzette” created in 1902 by Rosalind Dolin. This is vermouth blanc with strawberry liqueur. It was the drink to be seen within the cafes of Belle Epoque Paris.
A relatively new US aperitif by Woody, a 3rd gen winemaker, and Helena Hambrecht, a Silicone Valley brand creative. They started Haus because they knew how bad corporate booze could be, and realized that a whole generation was similarly frustrated with feeling terrible after a night of casual drinks for work or with friends. They decided to make a new type of farm-to-table spirits brand made with natural ingredients. Blended and packaged in Sonoma, California, their Ginger Yuzu, Lemon Lavender, Rose Rose, Citrus Flower, and Bitter Clove and can be shipped to your door. The latter contains Chardonnay grape, grape brandy, artichoke leaf, Saigon cinnamon, and other delicious, easily pronounceable things.