The purpose of an aperitif is to open the palate. Taking its name from the Latin verb aperire ("to open"), the aperitif is a light, dry premeal drink that serves to stimulate the appetite and ready one's stomach for the food yet to come. Not too sweet and not too boozy, these beverages (also called aperitivos in Italy) stoke rather than numb the taste buds. These bitter, herbaceous sips are often served with light snacks as a lovely predinner ritual.
Below is an introduction to the pillars of a solid aperitif menu. These beverages can, and should, be enjoyed simply—with little more than a splash of club soda, an ice cube, or a citrus twist. A couple of chilled ounces of your chosen aperitif is all you need—before dinner, at least.