Starting with the Bud Light when your friends come to the door at Christmas says you gave up. Especially when it’s so easy to step up your game and bring a new sophistication to your holiday entertaining this year. Take a tip from our international friends and pour a simple aperitif.

 

 An aperitif (ap-pair-ee-TEEF) is a dry, light and refreshing beverage consumed before dinner. It’s clean, crisp and served chilled, though not with ice, so as not to dull the senses. In fact, it’s intended to stimulate the appetite.

Serving an aperitif is de rigueur in Europe. The word aperitif is French; like its Italian version, aperitivo, it’s based on the Latin aperire, which means “to open.” It begins the dinner process, which is typically longer, more engaging and celebratory in European households. We love to eat, drink and be merry, too, so why aren’t our dinners more like this?

This holiday season, stop in and take home a bottle of one of the lovelies below. Your friends and family will marvel at your worldliness! Expand your horizons and make Christmas extra special with an aperitif from Cap n’ Cork.

 

Campari was the result of Gaspare Campari’s attempts to concoct a new beverage in 1860. It’s made with a confidential recipe, including an infusion of herbs, aromatic plants and fruit in alcohol and water. Campari is bitter, with a hint of grapefruit, but a bit of chilled soda will take the edge off of the beverage while the beverage takes the edge off of you.

 

The bright orange Aperol, another Italian apertif, has a unique taste thanks to its secret recipe. (We’re seeing a pattern here.) It has infusions of bitter and sweet oranges and many other herbs (including rhubarb) and roots. It’s just 11 percent alcohol, so it won’t do too much damage if you’re facing dinner with an empty stomach.

 

Lillet (lee-LAY) is a French aperitif produced in Bordeaux since 1872. It’s a blend of rigorously selected wines (85 percent) and fruit liqueurs (15 percent) handcrafted on site. Sweet oranges from southern Spain or Tunisia, bitter oranges from Haiti and quinine from Peru give it a citrusy, spicy, honey flavor. Aged in oak, Lillet comes in rouge (red), rose and blanc (white).

 

Dubonnet is also a French wine-based aperitif. It was created by Parisian chemist / wine merchant Joseph Dubonnet as a means of making quinine more palatable for the soldiers battling malaria in North Africa. Fortified wine; a proprietary blend of herbs, spices and peels; and quinine give it a rich, spicy Port-like flavor. Rouge is the more popular, but it also comes in blanc (more often used in cocktails).

 

Vermouths come in sweet (red) and dry (white). They’re wine-based, herb-infused drinks.

The French Noilly Prat traces its style to an accident. Back in the day, wooden sailing ships crossed the ocean with casks of wine. Fully exposed on deck to the elements, the wines aged in a unique way over the long journey, deepening in color and developing a more powerful taste. Joseph Noilly was inspired to age wines outdoors over four seasons, a production technique that is still used to create the taste and character of Noilly Prat Original Dry.

 

Other drinks also have served as aperitifs: fino sherry, dry Champagne, Cava and Prosecco among them. So feel free to experiment until you’ve found something that you love. And then you can crack open that Bud Light.