Aperitif drink with garnish

Blogs & Inspiration

Bartender's Guide to Aperitif and Digestif Drinks

People love to experiment with their choices and are constantly on the lookout to elevate their dining experience.

Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes

This article is an ideal bartender's guide to creating aperitif and digestif-style cocktails. Uncover what types of cocktails you should avoid serving before or after the meal and discover how your business can benefit from an aperitif and digestif menu to enhance the guest experience.

What are Aperitif cocktails?

Aperitifs are pre-meal drinks, designed to warm up your palate. Wake your senses and get your metabolism working. It can be as simple as a Gin & Tonic or as complex as a Negroni.

The aperitifs are a category of cocktails, that adds extra value to the customer experience. This is a great opportunity to capitalize and serve the drinks that sets the tone of the place within the first ten minutes of your customer’s dining journey.

Why are Aperitif cocktails important?

Since Aperitif is the first drink and the beginning of the dining experience, there are two things to keep in mind while serving these cocktails.

  • The bartenders need to understand the consumer's likes and wants to mix up a drink that would appeal to the consumer’s palate. Asking questions about their preferences and what they don’t like can get you in the right direction.
  • As it is the first drink, speed of service is crucial. Hence, the drink must be simple to mix and quick to deliver. For example – Johnnie & Ginger.


How to choose the right Aperitifs to serve?

  • Citrus Flavored Drinks - Citrus is an excellent palate cleanser and is one of the great options for aperitifs. Example – Paloma
  • Bitter & Aromatic Drinks - These drinks stimulate the senses and open the palate for an indulgent meal. Example – Negroni Blanco
  • Fresh Tasting Cocktails – Some enjoyable aperitifs are light, low on alcohol, and clean in flavor. Example – Smirnoff Apple Collins

Highball drinks such as Johnnie & Ginger and Gin & Tonic are impressive cocktails as aperitifs because they are quick to mix and serve. As it is probably the first drink in the dining experience and served within 2 mins from order. These highballs tick all the boxes of aperitif cocktail DNA that were mentioned earlier like citrus, aromatic, refreshing and bitter.

Fine Dining and Aperitifs

To gain more understanding, let's look at fine dining restaurants. Guests will be offered a palate cleanser at times so that they enjoy the flavors better. There is a good chance that the guests may have consumed some snacks or refreshments before coming to the venue. By serving an aperitif, you are helping them refresh their palate.

A great way to get started is to have at least three aperitif drinks at the beginning of the food menu. Either it should be part of the menu or can be clipped on it so that it can be changed whenever necessary. The staff should be trained to describe it to the guests in simple words. It's also a good upsell as it will add extra revenue.


Giving business a boost

The outlet could make these drinks with 30-40ml spirits to keep them light, and cost-effective and to avoid customers consuming strong drinks on empty stomachs.

Just like sommeliers recommend wine before and after a meal, having the staff trained as cocktail sommeliers could be a great boost for the restaurants. The biggest reason why aperitif cocktails work better than wines is venue has an option to show off the craft, and these cocktails can be low in calories and seasonal. Bar staff can also use data to know which spirits or flavors are favorite in the bar, and this can work as a foundation for developing the aperitif menu.

What drinks to avoid for aperitifs?

  • It's important to note that aperitif drinks should not be sweet, as it stops appetite, and customers would not be able to enjoy eating after sipping sweet drinks.
  • It should not be heavy like a piña colada as it fills the stomach and leaves no space for food.
  • Avoid spirit-forward drinks like Old fashioned as a strong drink on an empty stomach, may hit hard, and the guest may not order any more drinks.
  • The flavors of aperitifs should not be long-lasting as they will disturb the flavor of the meal if the cleanser is not served.

A perfect finish to the meal

Digestifs are served at the end of the meal as they aid in digestion. These cocktails could be sweet, bitter, or both in flavor, as a dessert that adds a final touch to your customer's meal or its delicious alternative. Digestifs are a perfect palate cleanser, and usually, whip powerful flavors of the meal.

Serving Digestif cocktails

  • Serve in a small quantity, ideally 90-100ml, since it is an after-meal drink
  • Drinks rich in flavors can be the best digestif, as it brings a finale to the occasion. For example, Baileys Irish cream served chilled
  • Bitter cocktails that aid in digestion can also be served as a digestif. For example, Rob Roy

Engaging digestif cocktails to include in your menu:

With this bartender’s guide, you will now have a better understanding of serving aperitif and digestif cocktails for your customers. These cocktails can be mixed with 0.75 - 1.25 oz of alcohol since they can be served as low alcohol (for Aperitif) or in a small quantity (for Digestif). It is a great way of addressing price sensitivity and the gap in drink menus. However, it will only work if staff and bartenders are trained well to explain to their customers and drinks are listed on the menu- especially with food menus (Aperitif drinks before food, and Digestif drinks after food).

Key Takeaways

  • Aperitifs are starter cocktails that are served before the meal.
  • Digestifs are drinks served after the meal to complete the dining experience and also to take the meal flavors off your palate.
  • Restaurant staff should have a clear knowledge of their drink menus and guests' preferences and would be able to recommend suitable cocktails.
  • Understanding the likes of your customers and speed of service is crucial while serving aperitifs.
  • Sweet and spirit-forward drinks are to be avoided as an aperitif.
  • An ideal digestif cocktail aids digestion by helping your metabolism work faster.
  • Serving the right kind of aperitif and digestif amplifies your customer's dining experience as these drinks are designed to serve a purpose in the dining.

Sign up for free and become a member of Diageo Bar Academy today and opt-in to receive our monthly newsletter to unlock the latest industry news, trends, and tips to keep your bar knowledge up to speed!