Why aperitifs are in the spotlight this summer
Summer is fast approaching and as more and more people get vaccinated we are looking for some hard hugs and light drinks. But what if the light beer doesn’t cut it or if * gasps * the Claw is no longer the law?
An aperitif (or appetizer in Italian – this continental divide will come back to later) is an extremely loose term describing a drink that gets you in the mood for dinner. These drinks may contain bubbles or strong alcohols, such as Negroni, tendrille or even the classic martini, but nowadays everything revolves around the aperitif spirit.
In recent years, these spirits have had an increasing trend, usually evidenced by specific drinks such as Aperol Spritz or trendy brands like Haus.
“This [trend] was started when spritz, sherry and amari started to be in fashion about five years ago. But it can only grow in variety from there as more ingredient options appear and bartenders explore and play more, ”says Caroline Pardilla, Los Angeles-based cocktail editor and
Instagrammer which has covered the local scene extensively since 2007. “And that’s a welcome trend as people may want to cut back on alcohol consumption after spending a year drinking it at home.”
In many ways, Haus has been a gateway to this category of drinks for new generations, and even more people have discovered the company throughout the pandemic. After steadily increasing, the brand exploded in 2020, with sales growth of 800%, and that success continued this year as it continues to grow month over month.
With aperitif spirits firmly back in the mainstream and an increasingly diverse market to suit all palates, they are poised to be the Goldilocks drinks of the summer. Less alcoholic than typical spirits and generally equal to twice the alcohol content of wine (many are sparkling or flavored wines), aperitif spirits create a happy medium of responsible pleasure. You can take them on their own or have cocktails just as satisfying as with strong alcohols.
Pardilla was recently seduced by the Fanny Flutters, a cocktail of Crémant de Bourgogne with guava, lemon and a butterfly pea flower float (stabilized with vodka, but its presence is negligible) to Soul mate in West Hollywood.
With such gorgeous and tasty drinks, you don’t have to go straight to non-alcoholic cocktails to cut down on your alcohol intake. Here are some suggestions for the next time you’re in the market for a light and refreshing appetizer.
This passion fruit liqueur needs to be refrigerated, but you certainly won’t forget it just because it’s not on your home bar. With a decadent mouthfeel, this tropical appetizer is refreshing on ice or as a rum substitute in a pina colada or frozen daiquiri.
From humble beginnings Haus now offers several flavor options ranging from the typical dry palate of the aperitif with bitter cloves to brighter, more floral lemon lavender and even spicy options like yuzu ginger and jalapeno grapefruit. You can customize a sampler kit to take four flavors for a ride or go straight for one that sounds like it’s in your back alley.
Biano / White Vermouth
Do you remember that old Franco-Italian nomenclature rivalry? This extends to that special category of vermouth that sits between sweet and dry. Martini & Rossi or Dolin are your most accessible choices while the crowd favorite is the quinine scent American cocchi, but nothing prevents you from enjoying the most affordable options with tonic water.
Lillet’s aromatic wine stable is a winner, but what is summer without rosé? Sweet, but not cloying, Lillet Rosé plays well with the other ingredients without getting completely lost in the mix.
Make no mistake, Aperol ran so Haus could soar. Over the course of the company’s long history, Aperol has made huge, routine marketing changes – the most recent is why every bar and brunch near you has an Aperol Spritz on the menu. But the proof is in the pudding; over 100 years of orange-forward excellence don’t lie.
On the bitter end of the orange appetizer, the almost unbelievably red Campari is the part of a Negroni people who react strongly. Not for the faint of heart, Campari awakens your palate like nothing else, making it the ultimate aperitif.
Complementing the Italian heavyweights of the amari, Averna is perfect for whiskey lovers. If you’re looking for something complex and a little lighter to sip on, Averna tempers its caramel notes with a variety of herbs and a hint of orange that you can’t shake – and you won’t.
Yes, more oranges, but this time there are bubbles! It is not an orange wine, that is to say a wine of contact with the skin, but rather a sparkling wine mixed with oranges and bitters. The end result is reminiscent of both a mimosa and an Aperol Spritz, but it ends up drier and brighter.
Gin lovers will fall for this floral amaro which is a new version of the long-abandoned rosolio subcategory. Bergamot, Rose, and Lavender were the best bunch until Tessa Thompson snuggled up with Rita Ora and Taika Waititi on that balcony, but it’s still unprecedented in a drink.
If you could have a nap in a meadow, it would be this golden elixir. Light and grassy, this citrus liqueur has some sweetness, some spiciness and lingering bitterness, but its vegetal core is polarizing. Not everyone can handle Suze on the rocks (no light plant use here), but it’s a surprising jack of all trades in a variety of cocktails.