The calendar doesn’t agree, but according to the unseasonably early heat wave last week here in the Mid-Ohio Valley, summer has arrived. With our deck furniture recently hosed off and a our café glasses brought out from storage, we were prepared to cool off with a relaxing aperitif on the porch.
Aperitifs are a category of drinks as well as a tradition throughout the Mediterranean, yes, but they’re also a state of mind. “L’apéritif is both a beverage and a social activity,” writes author Georgeanne Brennan in her book Aperitif: Stylish Drinks & Recipes for the Cocktail Hour. “The beverages are rarely strong spirits and the accompanying food never satiates, as the purpose is to pique the appetite.” Unlike the offerings seen in the America’s currently booming cocktail scene, aperitifs are light on the booze, usually only contain a few simple components and are intended to stimulate the palate rather than bludgeon it. In fact, aperitifs don’t even need to contain alcohol — a simple lemonade (or citron pressé, in fancy French terms) could count. It’s all about context.
Summertime refreshment and boho chic jewelry? Yes, please!
Aperitifs are all about transitioning from the busiest part of the day to the more relaxed, carefree time after the workday ends. Add some sun, casual company and a salty snack or two, and you have an occasion to reconnect with friends and enjoy the pleasures of the season. Sometimes, though, savoring an aperitif solo is also enjoyable. It’s the time you take for yourself to assess how the day went and what the remainder of the day holds…or to simply sit and think about nothing at all.
Your house aperitif could be anything from a glass of white or rosé wine, to a booch ‘n’ hooch, to a cooling beer cocktail…or our all-time favorite, Lillet Blanc. In France, aromatized and fortified wines served deeply chilled are common aperitifs, and the Bordeaux-produced Lillet (established in 1872) is a classic. It’s a blend of Sémillon and Sauvignoin Blanc wines flavored with orange and lemon brandies and a hint of quinine. It’s sweet and citrusy, but not cloying.
A delicious drink and fabulous jewelry are a beautiful solution to a hot summer day.
The manufacturer recommends serving it straight, very cold, but we prefer it over lots of cracked ice and garnished with an orange slice to accentuate its sunny appeal. Another popular variation cuts the Lillet Blanc with club soda or sparkling water and lime.
If you’d like a little nibble with your aperitif, think light and crunchy. Salted almonds, a fresh crudite platter, marinated mushrooms, black and green olives, spicy popcorn, or hard or soft cheeses with crackers are easy to throw together and won’t spoil your dinner — unless you’re content to make the whole aperitif experience your evening meal. In which case, snack away!
This breezy take on the traditional cocktail hour is gloriously light and refreshing.
Now that warm (or hot) weather is here, you don’t have to stick with the heavy-handed cocktail hour with its heavy appetizers and palate-wrecking liquors. An aperitif allows you to add some levity to your summer days. It’s a ritual that may sound frivolous at first, but you’ll soon find it’s the stuff of life, setting the tone for all that follows.
by Sara Bir