Sam Horwitz's Classic Cocktail Compendium

(With photos)

Apéritifs & Digestifs

There are many different styles of apéritif (It. aperitivo), digestif (It. digestivo), and amer (It. amaro). Apéritifs are traditionally consumed prior to a meal while digestifs are consumed after. The lines become blurred in the cocktail world, where they act as ingredients. Amari are bitter and distinct from bitter aromatized wines, as they have a spirit base.

Italian bitter red liqueur

Italian bitter red liqueurs are maybe best associated with Campari. Although Campari is ubiquitous and called for by name, feel free to experiment with other bitter red liqueurs, in it’s place. A dryer, low-ABV alternative to Campari is Aperitivo Cappelletti, which actually has a wine base making it fall under the aromatized wine category, an exception to the above rule.

French gentian liqueur

French gentian liqueurs, such as Suze or Salers, are another popular type of apéritif. They tend to be yellow or straw-colored.

Amer Picon

Amer Picon was a French apéritif called for in a few older recipes such as the Brooklyn. It’s formula was changed decades ago and it was split into two different products neither of which are exported to the US. The flavor of Amer Picon is orange, with gentian and quinine bittering. I substitute it with Bigallet China-China, another French amer with similar flavoring and bittering.