AskDefine | Define aperitif

Dictionary Definition

aperitif n : taken before a meal as an appetizer

User Contributed Dictionary

see Aperitif



  1. An alcoholic drink served before a meal as an appetiser.


  • Croatian: aperitiv
  • German: Aperitif
  • Italian: aperitivo

Extensive Definition

An aperitif, apéritif (Fr.), or aperitivo (It.) is an alcoholic drink usually enjoyed as an appetizer before a large meal. It is often served with something small to eat, like olives or crackers.
The word is derived from the Latin verb "aperire", which means to open. The apéritif indicates by extension the food-picking which can precede the meal. This includes finger food, often pistachios, chips or salted nuts. On broader terms, the apéritif applies to all types of food (small cakes, cut out fruits, pork-butcheries, cheeses and other imaginative assortments) which are served alongside drinks, corresponding to the Spanish tapas, Russian zakouski or Turkish meze.
An apéritif can also refer to a social occasion involving cocktails and a light meal without the necessity of a full meal afterwards.


There is no consensus as to the origin of the apéritif. Some say the concept of drinking a small amount of alcohol before a meal dates back to the Ancient Egyptians. According to other records the apéritif first appeared in 1786 when Antonio Benedetto Carpano invented Vermouth in Turin, which would be sold in the next century by companies such as Martini, Cinzano, Gancia and others. Apéritifs became truly popular in the late 19th century in Europe. By 1900, having an apéritif before a meal was very common in the United States.
In Spain and some countries in Latin America, aperitifs have been a staple of tapas-style cuisine for centuries.
A liqueur is a simply an alcoholic concoction, sweetened and flavoured with fruit, seeds, herbs, or even flowers.

Types of apéritif

There is no one particular type of alcohol that is always used for apéritifs, although liqueurs are common.
One of the most common apéritifs is sherry, but it varies from region to region. For example, in Greece, ouzo is a common apéritif, whereas in the United States, it would be rare to have ouzo as an apéritif. In the Czech Republic, a common type of apéritif is Becherovka, especially in the spa town of Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad).
In southern France, a common apéritif is Pastis which is another anise-based drink similar to ouzo, with commonly found brands in France being Ricard, Pernod and Pastis 51. The French typically drink the aperitif diluted 1:5 with water in a tall glass. The water may be added by drizzling it into the glass through a slotted absinthe spoon on which one or more cubes of sugar are placed as part of the infusion. A notable feature of this drink is that it turns from a sombre yellow to opaque white when water is added. This is distinct from but closely related to absinthe, an alcoholic beverage containing a wider array of botanical extracts.
Also popular are amari, which is the Italian word for bitters. These include Campari, Suze, Byrrh and Cinzano. Bitter herbs like gentian, quinine, artichoke leaves, dandelion, or angelica stimulate the gallbladder to release bile, which aids in the breakdown of food and proper elimination. Alcohol enhances the effects of these herbs.
The French also serve a digestif after meals, which is usually a strong spirit or liqueur. Usually, the digestif will be heavier and more alcoholic. Normally port or sherry are served as digestifs.
In Italian cuisine the aperitivo is very popular, especially in the north of Italy. Milan prides itself as "capital of the aperitif". In Italy, the offering made with the pre-dinner drink can be as small as a few potato chips and olives or as great as an elaborate buffet including hot dishes, pizza and even pasta. In Italy, and especially in Milan, the aperitif is becoming an attraction in itself as many more bars aggressively compete for the "aperitivo" crowd.
aperitif in Bulgarian: Аперитив
aperitif in German: Aperitif
aperitif in Estonian: Aperitiiv
aperitif in French: Apéritif
aperitif in Italian: Aperitivo
aperitif in Hebrew: אפריטיף
aperitif in Hungarian: Aperitif
aperitif in Dutch: Aperitief
aperitif in Japanese: 食前酒
aperitif in Norwegian: Aperitiff
aperitif in Polish: Aperitif
aperitif in Russian: Аперитив
aperitif in Slovak: Aperitív
aperitif in Serbian: Аперитив
aperitif in Finnish: Aperitiivi
aperitif in Swedish: Aperitif
aperitif in Ukrainian: Аперитив

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Mickey, Mickey Finn, antepast, antipasto, appetizer, canape, chaser, cocktail, doch-an-dorrach, drink, eye-opener, foretaste, highball, knockout drops, mixed drink, nightcap, parting cup, pousse-cafe, punch, smorgasbord, stirrup cup, sundowner, wee doch-an-dorrach, whet
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