Old but gold: aperitifs’ great comeback

World Best Bar

Dec 09, 2022

WBB apreritif comeback
Just as we have collectively been sharing a newfound love for all things vintage, from clothing to music to furniture,…

Just as we have collectively been sharing a newfound love for all things vintage, from clothing to music to furniture, so too are old-fashioned aperitifs making a comeback on the cocktail scene. Let’s dive into this trend.

Suze, Dubonnet, Noilly Prat, Byrrh, Lillet, Fernet, Cynar, Carpano Antica Formula… The list goes on and on. For the past few years, all those bottles that used to gather dust in our aunts’ liquor cabinets have been making their way to the world’s trendiest bars, where they are now being shaken up by experienced and innovative bartenders.

This all seems to be part of a wider lifestyle trend, where we as consumers have developed a seemingly unquenchable thirst for all things vintage. Our furniture is retro, our clothes come from vintage stores and re-selling platforms, our favorite music is once again being released on vinyl, and many music videos and popular TV shows have been heavily leaning into decades-past nostalgia.

We’re living in a nostalgic world, and this is paired with an acute awareness of our traditional consumption model’s pitfalls, and a return to safer, more responsible values and epicureanism. What millennials and Gen Z are looking for first and foremost is authenticity, a “back to basics” stance that aperitif brands far and wide have caught onto. 

Both surfing on the wave of “retro-marketing” and the strong low-ABV trend that has been shaking up the spirits market, old-timey aperitif brands such as Suze, Lillet, Campari, Dubonnet and more have seized the opportunity to rebrand and start communicating again, from refreshing their design and coming out with bold ad campaigns to spotlighting iconic drink recipes or inventing new ones.

Because this also tells us a lot about the way alcohol itself is being consumed, something both brands and bartenders know a thing or two about. The heyday of binge drinking is well and truly behind us, and “skinny” drinks like the vodka soda, squeeze of lime are starting to lose traction in the face of their more sophisticated, low-ABV counterparts. With vintage spirits’ comeback, consumers are actually letting us in on their desire to slow down, relax, be fully present with their friends and really take their time — like in the olden days, when every dinner party was introduced by a lengthy aperitif. This “slow drinking” trend finds its best ally in aperitif spirits and cocktails thanks to their low alcoholic content, allowing for prolonged imbibing sessions and a higher number of consumed drinks with much less intoxication (and sans next-day headache).

And seeing as these spirits all have a strong, quite singular signature, often more bitter and herb-forward than most liquors, they lend any drink they are part of a unique touch of complexity. By using aperitifs, all it takes is two or three ingredients to make a seriously good cocktail, low-ABV or not (case in point: the Negroni or the Spritz in all their versions and revisitations), with no need for fancy homemade macerations or herb-and spice-infused syrups — not that we have anything against those, of course.

As far as mixology trends go, this is probably the easiest for you to replicate at home, and many of these complex spirits stand up just fine sipped on their own. So how about a tasting session next time you have your friends over?  

WBB Bitter cocktail

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