Aperol spritz

Whet your ap­petite with these re­fresh­ing drinks from ex­pert Alice Las­celles

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Aperitifs take many forms, but they all started life with the same pur­pose, which was to kick-start the digestion be­fore a meal (the word comes from the Latin for ‘to open’, aperire). Bit­ter-sweet, herbal, of­ten sparkling, and usu­ally a bit lighter than a nor­mal cock­tail, aperitifs are meant to be re­fresh­ing – they should re­ally get your senses on their toes. The Ital­ians are the masters of the aper­i­tif (or ‘aper­i­tivo’), but Spain, France and Portugal all have strong tra­di­tions too. Cam­pari and Aperol are two well-known aper­i­tif in­gre­di­ents, but each coun­try has its own spe­cial­i­ties, from the Cap Corse Mat­tei quin­quina wines of Cor­sica and the ver­mouths of Spain, to Lil­let, a fruity aper­i­tif from Bordeaux. Ev­ery time I travel I dis­cover a new one.

I love aperitifs be­cause they’re de­li­cious, but also be­cause they’re re­ally easy to make. They rarely re­quire a cock­tail shaker and most are very happy in a big wine glass or a tum­bler. And they can usu­ally be thrown to­gether by eye – you won’t see a bar­tender in Italy use a mea­sure, ever! They’re a god­send for the lazy host.

It’s no sur­prise, given all this, that aperitifs are now hav­ing a mo­ment. So, whether you’re host­ing a bar­be­cue, look­ing for a stylish sun­downer, or sim­ply want some­thing nice to sip in the gar­den on a warm evening, make sure you try one of these this sum­mer…

Amer Pi­con & beer

Pour 25ml Amer Pi­con into a tall glass (ideally frozen), add 125ml pil­sner or wheat beer and gar­nish with an or­ange slice

Amer Pi­con is a bit­ter or­ange liqueur that you’ll see on the shelves of lit­tle lo­cal bars all over France. It’s tra­di­tion­ally mixed with pil­sner beer or wheat beer, to make a sort of souped-up shandy called a Pi­con bière. But you could have a lot of fun pair­ing it with the mul­ti­tude of new craft beers which are now on the mar­ket. A re­ally lip-smack­ing aper­i­tif that will ap­peal to those who like their drinks on the dry side.

Ne­groni sbagliato

Stir 25ml red ver­mouth and 25ml Cam­pari with 75ml chilled pros­ecco in a big wine glass or rocks glass with some ice and gar­nish with an or­ange slice

Leg­end has it that this sparkling aper­i­tivo – which lit­er­ally trans­lates as ‘bun­gled Ne­groni’

– was cre­ated when a Mi­lanese bar­tender ac­ci­den­tally mixed a Ne­groni with pros­ecco in­stead of gin. I don’t know if this is true, but these days the ruby-coloured Ne­groni sbagliato is one of my favourite party drinks. If I’ve got a lot of peo­ple com­ing over I’ll pre-mix a few jug­fuls and chill them in the fridge, so I’m not stuck in the kitchen all night mix­ing cock­tails. If you want to dial back the bit­ter­ness a bit, just add a lit­tle more pros­ecco.

White port & tonic

Pour 75ml white port into a tall glass, top with 100ml chilled tonic wa­ter and add a lemon slice or twist

If you spend any time in the Douro Val­ley, the home of Portugal’s port in­dus­try, you’ll end up sip­ping one of these – it’s the quin­tes­sen­tial Por­tuguese sun­downer. White port, which is made with white rather than red grapes, has a light fruiti­ness, while the tonic gives it that al­limpor­tant bit­ter edge. Two white ports that are rel­a­tively widely avail­able are Tay­lor’s Chip Dry White Port and Gra­hams Fine White Port. A re­ally stylish al­ter­na­tive to the G&T that’s be­com­ing in­creas­ingly trendy in the UK.

Ver­mouth over ice

Pour 75ml chilled ver­mouth over ice in a rocks glass, and add a cit­rus slice or cit­rus twist – or­ange, lemon or grape­fruit are all good

Ver­mouth can be served so many ways – with pros­ecco, with tonic, with soda, in cock­tails. But in Italy and Spain, this mix of wine, spirit and botan­i­cals is most of­ten sipped neat, over ice, with a slice of cit­rus. And there’s no bet­ter way to en­joy ver­mouth’s kalei­do­scope of flavours – it’s a ready-made cock­tail in a bot­tle. Ver­mouth comes in many dif­fer­ent styles – some of my cur­rent favourites in­clude the sweet white Lus­tau Blanco from Spain, Noilly Prat Dry from France, the rich red Sa­cred Spiced Ver­mouth from Eng­land and Mar­tini Reserva Spe­ciale Am­brato, an am­ber ver­mouth from Italy.

Aperol spritz

Mix 75ml pros­ecco/white wine, 50ml Aperol and 25ml soda wa­ter in a large wine glass with some ice, a green olive and a slice of lemon

Who doesn’t love an Aperol spritz? Venice’s sig­na­ture drink has con­quered the world in the last few years, but fa­mil­iar­ity hasn’t made it any less de­li­cious. The recipe for Aperol is a se­cret but bit­ter herbs, roots and cit­rus peels are key to this bright or­ange liqueur, which is like a milder ver­sion of Cam­pari. For a re­ally authen­tic spritz, make sure you in­clude the green olive – it may sound like a strange gar­nish, but that savoury note cre­ates a re­ally ap­petis­ing coun­ter­point to the sweet­ness of the liqueur.

Alice Las­celles is a drinks colum­nist for the Fi­nan­cial Times and the au­thor of Ten Cock­tails: The Art of Con­vivial

Drink­ing (£16.99, Salt­yard). @al­ice­las­celles

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