Serving a drink before dinner is a great tradition. But while having a good wine accompanying a fancy meal is something most of us would expect, the long tradition of the aperitif isn't as widespread as it should be. And while the aperitif culture is alive in countries like France and Italy, it is less common in other parts of the world. Which is why I want to dedicate some articles to this style of drinks.
When inviting guests for dinner, the aperitif allows us to greet them, make them feel welcome and prepare everyone for the great meal that follows. Sometimes when hosting a dinner party, we easily become too obsessed with serving food straight away and getting everybody to eat as soon as possible. The before dinner drink slows us down and relaxes us. A good aperitif should also whet the appetite and stimulate the senses for the experience to come.
What Makes An Aperitif
I really like the tradition of the aperitif. Although I only serve them on special occasions, I really enjoy making and having them. Therefore I went searching for interesting aperitifs. The kind of drinks that you can serve your guests to start off a great meal.
Common choices for an apéritif are vermouth; champagne; pastis; gin; rakı; fino, amontillado or other styles of dry sherry [...]; and any still, dry, light white wine. – Wikipedia
While the above listing of aperitifs is quite fine and well, I like the cocktail kind of aperitif. The most famous ones being probably the Martini, Manhattan and Negroni. And while there is nothing wrong with those cocktails, I often wonder if there are other cocktails that can be served as an aperitif and don't involve gin or whiskey.
Not A Martini
To find the first aperitif for my series I went to my book shelf and grabbed a book by Charles Schumann, a great bartender dedicated to classic cocktails. While reading the different recipes for aperitifs it became clear that the combination of gin and various ratios of vermouths is quite prevalent. But I was searching for some unusual ingredients.
After a while I stumbled upon a Martini variation made with tequila. This sounded interesting. Tequila is a rather fresh and floral spirit which is why it is usually served in Mexico before a meal. So it should also be a great base for an aperitif cocktail.
- Dash Angostura
- Dashes Vermouth dry
- 50ml Tequila
Stir in a mixing glass on ice and strain into a pre-chilled Martini glass. Garnish with an olive or lemon slice.
Recipe from Charles Schumann: American Bar
I used Dolin Dry as my vermouth and since dashes is a rather vague measurement I used 10ml of it.
When tasting this cocktail the tequila is very forward and dominant, as expected. A bit too spirit-forward, but the fruity tequila gives this cocktail a bit of balance. The slightly red hue provided by the Angostura is also a nice eye catcher.
For me the cocktail was a bit too spirit-forward, so I thought about how to improve it a bit. In my opinion all that was needed is a bit more vermouth and maybe another bitter.
- 45ml Tequila Blanco (100% Agave)
- 15ml Dolin Dry Vermouth
- 2 Dashes Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Boker's Bitters
Stir in a mixing glass on ice and strain into a pre-chilled Martini glass. Garnish with a lemon slice.
Reducing the tequila and increasing the amount of vermouth brings this drink a bit closer to the Martini. The tequila is still noticeable and provides a fresh and exotic taste. However the herbs from the Dolin play a bigger role here.
By increasing the amount of vermouth this cocktail is made a bit more dry and goes along well with lots of foods. It's not too exotic but still exotic enough to provide enough of a twist to the standard aperitif.
It's great to have an aperitif that fits the character of the food you are serving. And tequila goes well with spicy and bold food. So I find it really useful to have a tequila based aperitif in my repertoire. I think the original version of the Tequini provides a great contrast to Southern American cuisine or even some barbecue with bold and spicy flavors. My version is a bit more timid and probably better suited for mediterranian style food.
I'm looking forward to finding out more about this style of drinks. Next week I will try out a rum based aperitif, which should be a challenge as rum is rather sweet. If you like to find out what I can dig up, follow me on Twitter or subscribe. If you have any interesting aperitif recipes leave me a comment and I will check them out.
Title image via pixabay.