6 Aperitif Cocktail Recipes That'll Whet Any Appetite

The Europeans have summer figured out. Some countries even treat August like a national holiday. Not to mention, their fair-weather wisdom has also given us the aperitif — fragrant, low-proof libations meant to enliven the appetite before a meal.
And, here in Chicago, bartenders are tapping these drinks to anchor their own refreshing creations. So, in the name of happy hour, we asked six of our favorite watering holes to share their recipes. Cheers!
1 of 6
Pompelmo Americano from Parson's Chicken & Fish

Parson's may well be the new day-drinking destination of the summer, what with its picnic-table-stocked patio and summery debut cocktail menu by principal bartender Charlie Schott and general manager Max Wolod. If a Salty Dog (grapefruit juice, gin and salt) and the classic Italian sipper the Americano (Campari, sweet vermouth, soda) ever got together, the crisp, juicy Pompelmo Americano at Parson's would be their cool kid. A pinch of salt rounds out the edges of this drink's bitter components, while the light, herbal aperitif Cocchi Americano stands in for the standard measure of sweet vermouth.

3/4 oz Letherbee Gin
3/4 oz Cocchi Americano
3/4 oz grapefruit juice
Dash of Fee Bros. Grapefruit Bitters
Pinch of salt
San Pellegrino Pompelmo

Combine the first five ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a 9-oz ice-filled glass. Top with San Pellegrino Pompelmo.

Parson's Chicken & Fish, 2952 West Armitage Avenue (at Humboldt); 773-384-3333.
2 of 6
The Clipperton from Paris Club

Pimm's, the famous English aperitif, dates back to 1823 and is best known for the ever-adaptable libation the Pimm's Cup (lemon, cucumber, soda, Pimm's No. 1). When Lettuce Entertain You's cocktail expert, Paul McGee, set the current drinks menu for Paris Club, he included the fruity and refreshing Clipperton as a light, low-alcohol option. It plays Pimm's against dry vermouth, lemon, and raspberry syrup, all of which is topped off with mint and a crisp, dry sparkling wine.

1 1/2 oz Pimm's
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz Stonewall Kitchen raspberry syrup
Dry sparkling wine
Bunch of mint

Combine the first four ingredients in a Boston shaker with ice and shake for 10 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled wine glass. Top with 3 oz dry sparkling wine. Garnish with mint bouquet.

Paris Club, 59 West Hubbard Street (at Clark); 312-595-0800.
3 of 6
Madrid-style Gin Tonics from Sable Kitchen & Bar

"These were inspired by my travels in Spain," says Sable head bartender Mike Ryan, who visited the country earlier this year. "The country is absolutely mad for gin, and these elaborate Gin Tonics are fairly standard. The idea is a greater ratio of tonic to gin, so the cocktail is lighter and more refreshing." Although Ryan's newly added series of Gin Tonics to the Sable cocktail menu don't include any aperitif ingredients, per se, the spirit of these drinks naturally aligns with the concept of light, worry-free day-drinking.

2 oz Tanqueray Malacca
6 to 8 chunks pineapple, diced
Peel of one lime
One bottle of Fever Tree tonic
Build over good ice in a large goblet.

2 oz Bluecoat gin
3 ripe strawberries, sliced
3 sprigs thyme
One bottle of Fever Tree tonic

Build over good ice in a large goblet.

Sable Kitchen & Bar, 505 North State Street (at Illinois); 312-755-9704.
4 of 6
Venetian Spritz from Lula Cafe

The Spritz takes over the Italian port city of Venice in summer, and for good reason: It's bubbly, balanced in its bittersweetness, and you can knock them back for hours and still successfully navigate the city's cobblestoned alleys and bridges. Lula's rendition adds a measure of Cocchi Rosa — another Italian aperitivo classified as an aromatized wine, similar to vermouth — to the Spritz's classic base of Aperol, and serves it, true to those made in the piazzas of Venice, with a green olive garnish.

1 oz Aperol
1/2 oz Cocchi Rosa
1/2 Lemon juice
Dry sparkling wine (like cava)
Orange peel
Green olive

Combine first three ingredients in a large ice-filled tumbler glass. Top with sparkling wine. Garnish with orange peel and green olive.

Lula Cafe, 2537 North Kedzie Boulevard (at Linden); 773-489-9554.
5 of 6
Rosemary (No. 2) from Balena

"The really cool thing about this cocktail," says Balena's lead mixologist Natalia Cardenas, "is not only does it look beautiful — because when you shake it up, you get this really nice foam that sits, almost meringue-style, on top — it tastes really delicious. It has a refreshing, tart-orange note to it." It also doubles up on aperitifs, employing two italian favorites. According to Cardenas, Aperol lends flavors of blood orange, while Campari contributes a bitter-cherry element to the Rosemary. "And combined, they're not as bitter as if we were to use only Campari in the drink."

3/4 oz Campari
3/4 oz Aperol
1 1/2 oz Lemon sour (half lemon juice, half simple syrup)
1 egg white
10 sprigs of rosemary, plus one small sprig for garnish

Combine all ingredients except garnish in a cocktail shaker. Dry shake (with no ice) ingredients for 10 seconds. Fill shaker with ice and shake vigorously for 20 more seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe. Hold rosemary sprig over the flame of a lighter for two seconds to release its essential oils. Garnish drink with flamed rosemary sprig.

Balena, 1633 North Halsted Street (at North); 312-867-3888.
6 of 6
The Topsy from Scofflaw

Scofflaw's head bartender Danny Shaprio is rolling out The Topsy for the Logan Square bar's summer menu, and it's sure to be a popular choice out on its patio. But this riff on a classic Americano cocktail is so simple to make at home (provided you have the aperitifs!), it could very well be the drink of choice this summer on your patio, too. It pairs sweet Cocchi Rosa with the grassy, bracing, slightly bitter French aperitif called Suze.

1 oz Cocchi Rosa
3/4 oz Suze
Lemon wedge

Combine first two ingredients in an ice-filled Collins glass. Top with soda and garnish with lemon wedge.

Scofflaw, 3201 West Armitage Avenue (at Kedzie); 773-252-9700.

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