Traveling through Europe in the summertime can be a magically rejuvenating experience, especially if you’re coming from the hustle and bustle of city living. One of the memories (and activities) I most enjoy is the early evening apéritif, a pre-dinner palate-preparing cocktail that’s light, fragrant, and refreshing. This cocktail, with Aperol, Lillet Blanc, gin, and grapefruit, is a nod to the drinks I remember having at particularly small tables outside of a café in Florence.
Often consumed in the late afternoon or early evening before a meal, apéritifs (or aperitivos as they are known in Italy) are palate-inducing cocktails meant to spark your appetite. They often contain one of the many European herbal concoction liqueurs like Campari, Amaro, or Vermouth, giving the drink a subtle bitterness. Lower in alcohol, and on the lighter side, a good apéritif can be something as simple as a glass of champagne or prosecco or, like this drink, a clever combination of several ingredients.
This particular drink is part Italian, part French, and part pure imagination. Starting with both Aperol, an orange flavored cousin of Campari, and Lillet Blanc, this cocktail also has fresh grapefruit juice and lemon juice, which complement the citrus notes in the liqueurs. To add a little more kick, I added a touch of gin, which doesn’t compete with the other strong flavors. To give the drink some depth, I use two types of bitters, Angostura and a new favorite, grapefruit bitters, which are intensely fragrant, like the peel of a grapefruit. This drink is light (but not too light), refreshing, pleasantly bitter, and beautiful in color – an elegant yet accessible way to introduce yourself to apéritifs at home.
The Common Dawn
Yield: 2 cocktails
Time: 5 minutes
Glassware: coupe glass or martini glass
Tools: shaker, strainer, vegetable peeler
1 1/2 fl. oz. (45ml) gin
1 1/2 fl. oz. (45ml) Aperol
1 fl. oz. (30ml) Lillet Blanc
1 fl. oz. (30ml) grapefruit juice
1/2 fl. oz. (15ml) lemon juice
4 dashes grapefruit bitters (optional)
1 dash Angostura bitters
Lemon peel, for garnish
1. Pour all ingredients, except for the lemon peel, into a large cocktail shaker. Fill generously with ice and shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds until the shaker feels extremely cold.
2. Strain through a mesh strainer (like a tea strainer) directly into two glasses.
3. Squeeze the lemon peel over the glass to release the essential oils. Rub it lightly around the edge of the glass once, then drop it in.
Recipe note: Almost all of these ingredients should be readily available in any high-quality liquor store. Grapefruit bitters can be harder to find, but they are easily available online.