A Refreshing, Aromatic Herbal Aperitif
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A Refreshing, Aromatic Herbal Aperitif

In the season of heavy eating, sometimes we want a light, refreshing, low ABV cocktail to get us through a major meal. Enter this aromatic aperitif, which tastes just like it looks: light, herbaceous, and refreshing. 

What makes a drink an aperitif? It's more of a concept than a category. Loosely described as any drink taken before a meal to stimulate the appetite, the aperitif is meant to open up the senses without overwhelming them. In other words, it's there to gently ease you into a lengthy night of food and drink (ahem, pretty much every holiday gathering). For this reason, they're usually light, bone dry (not sweet), and low on the alcohol. An aperitif says, "let's slow this night down and savor each moment," rather than "let's turn things up a notch." 

While an aperitif can be as simple as a small glass of chilled Lillet (my go to when I'm really keeping things simple) or even Champagne, one of my favorite ways to introduce a meal is with this uncomplicated but stunning recipe -- essentially just white vermouth with crushed ice, a squeeze of fresh citrus, and lightly muddled herbs. 

The trick to this one is really going ham on the amount of herbs you place in each cup --when in doubt, add more. When you pack more herbs into the glass, you don't have to muddle as hard to release the right amount of oils. When you don't muddle hard (and I truly recommend a very very light touch with the muddler), you reduce the amount of bitter chlorophyll and vegetal matter in the drink, and cut back on the polyphenol oxidases that make fresh herbs taste oxidized when you bruise them.

Oh, and a pro tip: if you're not on the herb saver train yet, it's time to come aboard. If you use fresh herbs frequently in your cooking and cocktail shaking, you need one of these in your fridge. A pack of dill or bunch of mint that would start to get slimy and discolored in a matter of days for me now lasts a full two weeks, which saves me trips back to the store to replace my stock and of course cuts back on the spoiled herbs I have to throw away. 

Herbal Aperitif 3

For this recipe, use whatever herbs best capture the season for you -- I use a combination of mint and rosemary in the winter, and then switch to lavender or basil in the summer.

Herbal Aperitif 10

Herbal Aperitif

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INGREDIENTS

  • 4-8 sprigs seasonal aromatic herb (like mint, rosemary, thyme, lavender or basil)
  • 1 wedge citrus (lemon or lime)
  • 2 oz white vermouth (I prefer Dolin Blanc)

DIRECTIONS

(1) Muddle half the herbs very very lightly with the citrus wedge in the bottom of a glass. 

(2) Fill the glass with crushed ice, top with the vermouth, and give a light stir to incorporate. 

(3) Top with more crushed ice and the remaining herbs. Serve with a straw. 

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