What Exactly Is an Aperitif & Why Are They So Popular?

Posted by Helena Hambrecht on

What is an aperitif, and why do people love them so much? Part of the increase in their popularity is that aperitifs are so much more than just a drink. They represent a whole laid-back culture as well. 


Aperitif culture is steadily growing in the United States, and with good reason, as more and more people are taking the time to slow down and appreciate life. 


What We Mean When We Say Aperitifs Are More Than a Drink

The idea of aperitif culture originates in Europe, which makes sense as European culture tends to be more laid back than American culture. 


If you’ve ever been lucky enough to travel internationally, you likely noticed that, culturally, people all across Europe tend to move at a much slower pace than Americans are used to. They take the time out to enjoy the little things in life and structure their lives in a way that allows them the time to appreciate everything. 


It’s this approach to life that is the basis of the aperitif lifestyle. 


Thankfully, European aperitif culture has slowly crossed the ocean and made its way to the US over the years. Enjoying a drink with friends without the loud bar scene resonates strongly with those of us who are uninterested in or have grown out of the bar scene. While drinking used to be a competition to see who could do the most shots or pound more unappealing beers just to catch a buzz, aperitif culture values complex, exciting flavors instead of high ABVs.


In Europe, if you’ve invited to someone’s home for dinner, they will likely greet you with an aperitif and sit down with you to talk about life for a while. This varies significantly from how we approach the concept of the dinner party in the US, where everything revolves around the food. 


In Europe, especially France and Italy, having people over is far more about connection and conversation. Nothing is rushed, nothing is sped through, and every moment is enjoyed for what it is. 


This push toward slowing down and enjoying the connection and quality time that comes with enjoying a good drink with friends is the biggest benefit of the aperitif. 


So, what is an aperitif? It really is a lifestyle, one that prioritizes connection above everything else.  


How Are Aperitifs Different Than Traditional Liquors?

While the differences depend on the brand and the type of liquor, aperitifs offer a unique spin on the way we’re used to drinking. 


Traditionally, aperitifs are light, refreshing alcoholic drinks meant to be served before a meal to help stimulate the appetite. Think of them as a kind of liquid appetizer, one designed to help get the conversation flowing. The name comes from the Latin word amperire, which translates into “to open up,” which is a perfect example of what aperitifs can do.


You have likely tried an aperitif before. There really are no hard and fast rules to what makes up an aperitif, and they can be anything from very sweet to very dry. Liquors like Aperol, Campari, and vermouth fall into the aperitif category, and they form the base to well-known, classic cocktails like the Negroni or the Aperol Spritz. 


For the health-conscious, a huge benefit to drinking aperitifs is the lower sugar content. Unless you’re used to drinking your liquor straight up, most of them are mixed with sugar-heavy sodas or fruit juices. 


When it comes to aperitifs, most are naturally low in sugar and meant to be enjoyed either on the rocks or mixed with tonic water. It’s a great way to cut out sugar without having to cut out how much you enjoy your downtime. 


Because aperitifs are such a broad category of tastes and flavor profiles, there is no set glass that is required to enjoy “correctly.” It’s just another example of the laid-back nature of the drink, allowing you to enjoy it in whatever way you feel is right (or whatever you have lying around your house). 


What Should You Look for in an Aperitif?

With so many aperitifs out there, it’s not hard to find one that fits your taste and needs. When we created our aperitif selection, we focused on what we value in a drink meant to start a meal or a conversation. 


What Goes Into Haus Aperitifs? 

We believe that creating an all-natural aperitif, one with ingredients that you can recognize and easily pronounce, was non-negotiable. That’s why every bottle starts with local, versatile chardonnay grapes from places like Grist Vineyard in beautiful Sonoma County, California (and other farmers we trust). However, unlike when they are used to make chardonnay wine, our chardonnay grapes remain unoaked to maintain a crisp, clean, fruity palate. 


From there, we add only real fruits, herbs, and botanicals to create unique, complex flavor options. 


Take our Citrus Flower variety, for example. We combine hand-picked elderflower, organic orange peel, magnolia blossom Oolong tea, and just a pinch of pure organic cane sugar (among other natural flowers) to make a beautiful, easily drinkable aperitif. There are no artificial colorings or flavors in our aperitifs.


Every bottle also comes with a complete set of nutritional facts so that you can make sure your aperitif fits with your personal health goals. We’re all about transparency at Haus, so you can find the calories, sugars, sodium, and carb counts before you enjoy. Aperitifs fit perfectly into a sustainably healthy lifestyle, and you won’t have to feel guilty after enjoying a drink or two. 


If you’re not sure where to start and you’re not used to drinking on the rocks, try a starter Cocktail Kit. The kit comes with four of our bestselling aperitifs (Citrus Flower, New Fashioned, Grapefruit Jalapeno, and Pomegranate Rosemary), plus a book featuring 20+ cocktail recipes that allow them to shine. 


An example of those cocktails is The Remedy, a perfect aperitif cocktail for a cold night with friends. To make The Remedy, just mix 3 ounces of Citrus Flower (Lemon Lavender can also be substituted) with 2 ounces of herbal tea (chrysanthemum is an excellent choice), served hot with lemon.


How You Can Apply Aperitif Philosophy To Your Life

Life doesn’t slow down for anyone. If you want to spend more time enjoying it, you have to set up those opportunities for yourself. 


An excellent way to make the shift is to switch from subscribing to drinking culture to socializing culture. Getting together with the people you value the most isn’t likely based on drinking anymore and is more about just enjoying each other's company. But there’s no reason you can’t enjoy a cocktail together, either. 


Nights like these are where aperitifs really shine. Their complexity of flavors, like Grapefruit Jalapeno, means that they’re easy and delicious to enjoy on the rocks. And, because they have a lower ABV than the usual go-tos of whiskey or vodka, you don’t have to worry as much about feeling terrible the next day. Who has time for that? 


Compare that to the concept of the Happy Hour. After a hard day of work, you and your coworkers likely headed right for the closest dive bar to vent about your day. While venting isn’t always a bad thing, combining that type of stress relief with overindulging in heavy booze can lead to hangovers and embarrassment.  


Instead, invite a few coworkers over, pour them an aperitif, and talk about things in a much more quiet, conversational setting. 


How Should You Serve Aperitifs?

Aperitifs are best served with a small selection of easily grabbable or dippable appetizers or snacks. Charcuterie boards, olives, grapes, and cheese are all perfect bites that aren’t too heavy. And, although aperitifs are themselves meal openers, you don’t have to progress into a full meal and can easily snack yourself through the whole night without feeling uncomfortable.  


You can also take a page out of European aperitif culture and have a dinner party based around the drink. Invite people over earlier than you usually would, serve them a glass of whatever aperitif pairs best with what you’re serving, and take time even before appetizers come out to have genuine conversations without the distraction of food, television, or social media. 


In the end, connectedness is one of the essential parts of life. Studies have shown this time and time again, proving just how beneficial having a strong social network can be for both physical and mental health. 


What is an aperitif, if not a liquid reminder to take the time to build and maintain those connections? How many other liquors can make the same claim? We believe it is unique to aperitifs and why we think they’re becoming so popular in the US.


In Summary

What is an aperitif? It’s not just a drink; it’s a focus on slowing down and enjoying the connections that keep us going. Instead of going out and drinking just to drink, aperitifs allow us to spend time with the people who are important to us without worrying about a hangover ruining the next day. So, join Haus and raise a glass to something better! 


Sources:


Growing Chardonnay Wine Grapes | USDA 


How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label | FDA 


Connectedness & Health: The Science of Social Connection | The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education