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What Bartenders Should Know about Aperitifs

Aperitif comes from the Latin word aperire, meaning “to open.” An aperitif is usually any type of drink a bartender would serve before a meal. Most aperitifs are usually low in alcohol and mild-tasting.

You can drink many cordials and liqueurs listed later as aperitifs as well. Here are the individual products that are available:

  • Amer Picon (French): A blend of African oranges, gentian root, quinine bark, and some alcohol. Usually served with club soda or seltzer water with lemon.

  • Campari (Italian): A unique combination of fruits, spices, herbs, and roots.

  • Cynar (Italian): A bittersweet aperitif that's made from artichokes. Best when served over ice with a twist of lemon or orange.

  • Dubonnet (American): Produced in California and available in blond and red. Serve chilled.

  • Fernet-Branca (Italian): A bitter, aromatic blend of approximately 40 herbs and spices (including myrrh, rhubarb, camomile, cardamom, and saffron) in a base of grape alcohol. Mint-flavored Fernet-Branca is also available. It's called Branca Menta.

  • Jägermeister (German): Composed of 56 botanicals, including citrus peel, aniseed, licorice, poppy seeds, saffron, ginger, juniper berries, and ginseng.

  • Lillet (French): Made in Bordeaux from a blend of 85 percent fine Bordeaux wines and 15 percent fruit liqueurs. Lillet Blanc is made from sauvignon blanc and semillon and has a golden color. Lillet Rouge is made from merlot and cabernet sauvignon and has a ruby-red color.

  • Pernod (French): Comes from the essence of badiane (anise star) and from a spirit made from natural herbs, such as mint and balm.

  • Punt e Mes (Italian): Vermouth with bitters and other botanicals added.

  • Ricard (French): Made from anise, fennel (green anise), licorice, and other Provençal herbs.

  • Suze (French): French bitters distilled from gentian root. Gentian is a large, originally wild flower with golden petals that's grown in the Auvergne and Jura regions.

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