We love the tradition of an apéritif before dinner, especially when the weather turns warm and we can enjoy them outdoors. Light and refreshing, they are perfect to whet your appetite this summer. We’ve rounded up 15 of our favorite summer apéritif recipes for you to enjoy all season long.
Bitter flavors stimulate the appetite and are at the base of many apéritifs. One of our favorite bitter liqueurs is Cynar, which is made from artichokes and has a grassy bitterness. In the Black Betty, it’s mixed with bittersweet Braulio amaro, Herbsaint, and rye whiskey. In the Devi’s Garden, a touch of cynar adds a little depth to a drink made with reposado tequila and chile-infused mezcal.
Vermouth is perhaps best known for playing second fiddle to gin in a martini, but it’s a wonderful ingredient in its own right. While a typical martini might be two parts gin to one part dry vermouth, in the Upside-Down Martini this ratio is reverse. To bring out the vermouth even further, cut out the gin and replace it with soda water to make a delicate, botanical spritzer.
If these bitter liqueurs are a little too strong for you, try mixing them with fruit for balance. To make our grapefruit agua fresca, combine tequila with Cocchi Americano Rosa and grapefruit juice. The Merchant’s Wife features gin, Aperol, and muddled watermelon. Both apéritifs are delightfully bittersweet.
Find all of these drinks and more in our collection of summer apéritif recipes.
Inspired by the classics—the Manhattan, the Sazerac—Max Greco created this drink featuring bittersweet, nutty Braulio amaro at Vasco in Sydney, Australia.
Corpse Reviver No. 2
Popularized by the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock, this classic cocktail is part of a succession of “Corpse Revivers” originally devised as a hangover cure. An ice-cold nip of this elixir is refreshing, astringent, and strong enough to perk up the senses—reviving, indeed.
Grapefruit Agua Fresca
In this refreshing cocktail, tequila is mixed with sweet honey, tart grapefruit juice, and bitter Cocchi Americano Rosa.
Twentieth Century Cocktail
This 1937 British cocktail strikes an unexpected balance between velvety creme de cacao and refreshing gin, lemon juice, and Lillet.
Bright red and bittersweet, the Americano was born as the “Milano-Torino” at Caffe Camparino in the 1860’s (the Campari came from Milan, the sweet vermouth from Turin). The cocktail eventually became known as the Americano due to its popularity with American expats during prohibition.
A mix of Campari, Pimm’s No. 1, and ginger beer, this drink makes an excellent warm weather aperitif.
Tante Marie Fizz
Since Whitley Neill gin gets its signature tanginess in part from the fruit of the African baobab tree, this sweet, sour, and spicy aperitif takes its name from a song by Senegal’s legendary Orchestra Baobab.
The Merchant’s Wife
A bright mix of watermelon, gin, Aperol, lemon juice, and a splash of club soda, this cocktail from Stella Rosa Pizza Bar in Santa Monica sidesteps the normal pitfalls of watermelon-based cocktails, which tend to veer to the overly sweet. Well-balanced and pleasantly effervescent, the mild astringency of the Aperol tugs back at the melon’s sweetness and reignites the gin, elevating this brightly-hued cocktail to the heights of sophistication.
The New Airline
Cool, mild cucumber and sweet elderflower liqueur echo gin’s floral notes in this cocktail. With notes of apple, lime, and a bit of heat from fresh ginger, it has an effect almost like a spa in a glass.
Found all over Italy, the spritz is a classically Venetian cocktail that pairs well with all sorts of cicheti.
This refreshing aperitif comes from chef Jimmy Bradley, who serves it at his New York City restaurant The Harrison.
Cola-like bittersweet, effervescent, and herbal, this cocktail is perfect for a hot summer afternoon.
Dolin and Soda
Dolin Blanc vermouth shines in this effortless cocktail, essentially a spritzer, served at Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Tavern. Delicate, botanical, honey-tinged but notably dry, its combination with sparkling water lets the aromatics blossom and highlights a bitter finishing note. Low in alcohol content, you can down two or three on a sunny afternoon without spinning off towards oblivion.