Let’s start with an aperitif.
In short, it’s the lightly alcoholic, slightly sweet beginning to a great evening! From the Latin aperire, “to open,” aperitifs ideally work on two levels—to open your palate and, perhaps, your mind. Served over ice and paired with a slice of fruit, both for looks and for a pre-dining nibble, the aperitif is designed to whet our appetites, while imbuing us with a relaxed feeling.
Let’s finish it off with a digestif.
If an aperitif helps stimulate your appetite, its counterpart, the digestif, is passed post-dinner to settle the stomach while helping you wind down after an especially big meal. Utilizing herbs, spices, and other plant-compounds, digestifs were once widely used as elixirs to treat almost every ailment imaginable, and soon enough, these concoctions were making the leap from pharmacies to dinner tables.
Digestifs are often sweet or bittersweet. From port wines to dessert liqueurs, digestifs tend to have a good amount of sugar, but you can find some with more herbal and bitter essences if you prefer some less profoundly sweet. In practice, though, digestifs are not as popular here as they are in European countries and cultures where dinner can be a multi-course affair and typically later in the evening. That said, the holidays sound like the perfect occasion to pass a digestif.
NOTABLE DIGESTIF COCKTAILS
Brooklyn, Bijou, Stinger
Let’s make an evening of it.
When it comes to entertaining, there’s nothing complicated about the service of aperitifs and digestifs. Generally, you should be prepared to pass aperitifs when your guests arrive, anywhere from an hour to a half-hour before the meal is served. And, the digestifs should arrive after the dessert or a cheese course.
While it’s steeped in tradition, aperitifs and digestifs are all about making your guests comfortable throughout the evening and striking a tone that’s relaxed for company, conversation, and whatever the occasion may hold.