Monday, March 24, 2008

Aperitifs and Digestifs Enjoying Respect in the U.S.

One of the many things I appreciate about dining “European style” is the way alcohol is incorporated into a meal. Whether in a fine restaurant, or eating al fresco in one’s own backyard, an apertif (appetite opener) before the meal, a glass or two of wine to enhance the food, and a digestif post-satiation is normal.
As noted in my recent post on Dubonnet (an aperitif) it’s not “gourmet.” It’s just a way of life.

Having spent much of my life in Europe, I am happy to notice Americans coming around to this way of thinking. In LA, especially, people tend to think of having more than one drink as excessive. (Between being figure-obsessed and having to drive everywhere, this is not really a sophisticated "drinking town.") But, the thing that gets lost in translation is that an aperitif or digestif is not about excess. These before and after dinner drinks are not supposed to be guzzled to “get a buzz” the way too many young Americans approach a cocktail. Digestifs, in particular, are served in small glasses - often shot glass sized - but meant to be sipped, enjoyed… not slammed down the hatch.

The change of mentality is reflected in Averna’s proud announcement that the products in its first ever line expansion received high acclaim at this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The traditional Averna Amaro was presented a Gold Medal while the company’s newest arrivals, Averna Sambuca and Averna Sambuca Licorice received Double Gold and Silver, respectively. The new Averna Limoni got Bronze.

I’ve tried each of these products myself. (I keep them in my secret stash at home.) Speaking from experience, I can say that both anis-flavored sambucas do the trick after a decadent creamy pasta. I love me some lemon … but I’d prefer the Limoni to be slightly less syrupy and a touch more tart. Still, I wouldn’t “kick it out of bed,” as the saying goes…

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