The Rise of the Modern British Aperitif

When it comes to aperitif culture, Britain may have been slow off the mark compared to our continental neighbours (blame the weather). But in the last few months alone, we’ve welcomed the launch of several new spirits and liqueurs that are redefining how we spend those magical hours in between work and dinnertime. The new British aperitif? It’s well on its way!

Here in the UK, we’ve long been skilled in the art of after-dinner tipples, and should knocking back G&Ts in pub gardens ever become an Olympic sport, we’d be taking home gold. But British aperitif culture is still new – thrillingly so. In only the last few years, we’ve begun to cultivate an appreciation for all things bitter, bracing, and appetite-stimulating; preferably those spirits that are versatile enough to mix in cocktails or simply drink with a splash of something fizzy (or over ice). And as the first British aperitif on the market (though we don’t like to brag), we’ve been privileged to see the culture continue to evolve in real time.

Of the new guard of British aperitifs, BOLD Spirits is one of the older ones. Until recently, gin was one of the best

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opportunities for distillers to experiment with different herbs, spices, and other aromatics; now, drinkers are turning to aperitifs for similar botanical complexity. Bartender Tomas Lenko’s recipe features 15 botanicals – ranging from cassia bark to raspberry leaves – and is heaped full of sour cherries. The resulting elixir is full of tart fruit complexity, and works brilliantly in Negronis, Old Fashioneds, and other short, boozy serves.

Equally established and hailing from North London’s residential distillery, Sacred, is Ian Hart’s Rosehip cup. Blending English Rhubarb, rosehips and Peruvian ginger this blend of 27 botanicals was designed as a British take on Campari and goes particularly well in Negronis and added to a glass of Champagne for a bittersweet twist.

 

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Those who would swear allegiance to G&Ts and summer cups are bound to appreciate The Wingfield, a British aperitif launched earlier this month. This one is elegant and dry, thanks to its gin base, though its ingredients – which include cucumber, grapefruit, and elderflower – call on the flavours that most of us associate with British summertime, distinguishing it from anything you might find in a Venetian aperitivo bar. It’s also wonderf

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ully low-maintenance – a quality we certainly appreciate in an aperitif – and can be enjoyed simply over ice or with a dash of soda water.

Another of the British aperitifs that’s recently earned a place in our rotation is Escubac, made by the Sweetdram distillers collective. This one has a bit of a cheeky secret, in that it’s technically a dual-citizen: though it hails from East London, it’s distilled on old copper stills in France’s Distillerie Combier. The result is a spirit that’s saffron-hued and complex, thanks to its recipe of coriander, cardamom, caraway, and 11 other botanicals. If you ask us, its stylish looks – we do have a weakness for good design – are testament to its East End origins.

When the British aperitif drinkscape is this interesting, it’s hard not to convert to pre-prandial drinking. And do keep an eye out for more upcoming launches, including our friend Max Chater’s Cellar Door aperitif, a small-batch riff on Campari which will debut soon. Cheers to the present – and the future – of the British aperitif!