An apéritif is an alcoholic beverage usually served before a meal to stimulate the appetite, and is therefore usually dry rather than sweet. Common choices for an apéritif are vermouth; champagne; gin; fino, amontillado or other styles of dry sherry (but not usually cream sherry, which is very sweet and rich); and any still, dry, light white wine.
"Apéritif" is a French word derived from the Latin verb aperire, which means "to open."
A digestif is an alcoholic beverage served after a meal, in theory to aid digestion. When served after a coffee course, it may be called pousse-café. Digestifs are usually taken straight. Common kinds of digestif include:
- Brandy (Cognac, Armagnac, alambric)
- Fortified wines (sherry (usually cream sherry), vermouth, port, and madeira)
- Liqueurs bitter or sweet (drambuie, amari, herbal liqueur, chartreuse, Grand Marnier, Irish Mist, Kahlua, limoncello)
- Distilled liquors (ouzo, tequila, whisky or akvavit)
- Liquor cocktails (Black Russian, Rusty Nail, etc.)
In certain areas it is not uncommon for a digestif to be taken before a main course. One example is the trou normand, a glass of Calvados taken before the main course of a meal.
In many countries, people drink alcoholic beverages at lunch and dinner. Studies have found that when food is eaten before drinking alcohol, alcohol absorption is reduced and the rate at which alcohol is eliminated from the blood is increased. The mechanism for the faster alcohol elimination appears to be unrelated to the type of food. The likely mechanism is food-induced increases in alcohol-metabolizing enzymes and liver blood flow.
The apéritif was introduced in 1846, when a French chemist, Joseph Dubonnet, created his eponymous wine-based drink as a means of delivering malaria-fighting quinine. The medicine was a bitter brew, so he developed a formula of herbs and spices to mask quinine's sharp flavor, and it worked so well that the recipe has remained well-guarded ever since. French Foreign Legion soldiers made use of it in mosquito-infested Northern Africa. Joseph's wife was so fond of the drink that she had all her friends try it, and its popularity spread.
Some say that the concept of drinking a small amount of alcohol before a meal dates back to the ancient Egyptians. Main records[which?], however, show that the apéritif first appeared in 1786 in Turin, Italy, when Antonio Benedetto Carpano invented vermouth in this city. In later years, vermouth was produced and sold by such well-known companies as Martini, Campari, Cinzano, Dolin and Noilly Prat.
Apéritifs were already widespread in the 19th century in Italy, where they were being served in fashionable cafés in Rome, Genoa, Florence, Milan, Turin, and Venice. Apéritifs became very popular in Europe in the late 19th century. The popularity in Europe crossed the Atlantic and by 1900, they were also commonly served in the United States. The apéritif recrossed the Atlantic in the 1970s: the habit of a substantial food offering with the purchase of a drink during "Happy Hour" in the United States pushed the development of a more food-heavy apéritif in Italy as well. In Spain and in some countries of Latin America, apéritifs have been a staple of tapas for centuries.
There is no single alcoholic drink that is always served as an apéritif. Fortified wine, liqueur, and dry champagne are probably the most common choices. Because it is served before dining, the emphasis is usually on dry rather than sweet, as a general guideline.
- In France, the apéritif varies from region to region : pastis is popular in the south of France, Calvados brandy in the Normandy region, Crémant d'Alsace in the eastern region. Champagne wine or Cognac may also be served. Kir, also called Blanc-cassis, is a common and very popular apéritif-cocktail made with a measure of crème de cassis (black currant liqueur) topped up with white wine. The word Kir Royal is used when white wine is replaced with a Champagne wine. A simple glass of red wine, such as Beaujolais nouveau, can also be presented as an apéritif, accompanied by amuse-bouches.
- In Italy, vermouth or wine may be served as the apéritif (called aperitivo). In Brescia, Lombardy the pirlo is the most common aperitivo; in Venice venezianoTemplate:Dn, in Milan aperol spritz, in Padova spritz as well.
- In Greece, ouzo is a popular choice, except on Crete, where it is very common to take some raki after a meal.