It seems just yesterday we were thirsting for the sun and some summer warmth, and now people are making out with their air conditioners. August heat is enough to stifle an appetite. You can go through a lot of work creating a summer feast, grill up some beefy masterpieces, and people just want to nibble on appetizers. Now is a perfect time to break out some aperitifs—spirits and liqueurs designed to stimulate the appetite. Campari, Aperol, Pimm’s, Vermouths, Lillet, and Dubonnet all fit the bill. They range in taste from bitter to bittersweet, and can be refreshing on a hot day.
Campari is considered the king of aperitifs, and one of the bartender’s joys is watching the reaction as a first timer tastes Campari—it’s unexpectedly bitter. I used to think of Campari as the equivalent of stiletto pumps, with people forcing themselves to drink it to be Euro cool, but then it grew on me. An easier start might be with a refreshing Pimm’s Cup or a simple fortified wine like Lillet Blanc on the rocks. I dig Aperol, made by the same company as Campari; it’s not as bitter and tastes of orange and rhubarb. Try a splash in a grapefruit margarita or Tom Collins.