A few years ago, bottles of Amaro and Campari collected dust on bars, were buried in home liquor cabinets, or re-gifted from one dinner party to another. But bartenders and chefs have long preached the merits of the Apertivo genus of booze – a cocktail that prepares the body and triggers the appetite for a meal – delving into flavors you’ll never get from a copper pot still or a craft brewery.
“Our job is to change people’s perceptions,” says Joey Goetz, a mixologist at The Belmont in Charleston, South Carolina, a bar specializing in Apertivo liqueurs. The culinary zeitgeist has now caught on, and the American palate has finally acquired the right receptors for a new shelf on the bar.
“The entire category has seen a boom in the last few years,” says Mike Capoferri, bartender at 432 Fairfax in Los Angeles. “They’re delicious and lower proof, allowing people to keep their wits about them. They’re also crazy-versatile cocktail ingredients, bringing a bitter complexity and depth.”
It has “a eupeptic effect,” stimulating salivary glands and preparing your body for food, says Francesco Lafranconi, founder of the Academy of Spirits and Fine Service. “It’s as much a part of the Italian biological clock as espresso after a meal.”
The popularity of this category in bars has translated into an increased availability in liquor stores of previously esoteric and hard-to-find imports. If you’re a sipper, an aficionado, drink an Apertivo for its depth of flavor. If you’re a social drinker, let it break up the monotony of beer and wine. If you’re food-focused, drink it because it’s chemically designed to prepare your palate for a meal.
Here’s a primer for the home bartender: