Friday, October 19

Tom Gabb: Aperitifs and Digestifs

- January 8, 2018

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Like many of you I have spent the last couple of weeks putting my body through the gastronomical assault course that is Christmas. The haze of sherry may now have been lifted, but I have been left thinking that the best drinks for this digestively challenging season are Aperitifs and Digestifs. They are somewhat mandatory in my household thanks to my Italian heritage, but I do wonder how much people know about the most important drinks of the day, and how useful they are.

To be very basic about it, Aperitifs are the drinks that are imbibed before a meal to make you hungry and digestifs are what is drank after a meal to help ease the pain of a second helping. Though effective aperitifs range from sherry to anise flavoured spirits, I would say that they must always be dry and preferably bitter.

Aperitif is a French word derived from the Latin verb aperire, which means “to open” and as disgusting as it sounds, they open your appetite. When I say this, I mean that a drink like this allows you to digest more effectively. This is because in nature most poisons have a dry and bitter flavour, so upon tasting something sufficiently bitter your stomach naturally defends itself by producing more stomach acid.

Digestives on the other hand are a little simpler. Mostly they are sweet and can be very alcoholic, this is because sugar or hard spirit tend to slake hunger and notify your body to put the spoon down. This functional approach to drinking is so helpful in fact that it is mentioned in writing as early as 450 AD.

If you want a personal selection I would say, for an aperitif I’m quite partial to Campari’s French counterpart Suze. For a digestif I am very partial to Grappa, an Italian brandy made from grape pomace, but be warned it is not for the faint-hearted. More than all the practical applications of these libations though, the best thing is that it encourages togetherness, lets you linger a little longer at the table and encourages a lot more laughter.


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