National Apéritif Day Date in the current year: May 16, 2024

National Apéritif Day Even if you’re not a fan of drinking in the middle of the week, you can make an exception on the third Thursday of May because it is National Apéritif Day. This holiday was created to appreciate alcoholic beverages that are served before a meal.

Apéritifs are alcoholic beverages that are served before a meal, sometimes with an appetizer, to stimulate the appetite. They have existed since at least the 5th century but didn’t become widespread until the 19th century.

The history of modern apéritifs began in 1796, when Italian distiller Antonio Benedetto Carpano invented modern sweet vermouth in Turin. The new drink quickly became a popular apéritif in Turin and other Italian cities, such as Florence, Genoa, Milan, Rome and Venice, where it was served at fashionable cafés.

From Italy, vermouth made its way to France, starting a fashion for apéritifs. In 1846, French chemist and wine seller Joseph Dubonnet took part in a competition run by the French government in order to persuade the Foreign Legionnaires stationed in North Africa to consume quinine to prevent malaria and created a beverage made with red wine, herbs and spices, quinine, and cane sugar. Dubonnet’s wife liked the concoction, offered it to her friends as an apéritif, and so the popularity of Dubonnet, named after its creator, began to spread.

By the end of the 19th century, apéritifs became widespread in Europe and crossed the Atlantic. The custom of serving them with appetizers probably emerged from the American practice of happy hours and crossed the Atlantic back to Europe in the 1970s.

Different types of alcoholic beverages can be served as an apéritif; as a rule of thumb, however, apéritifs are generally dry rather then sweet. Popular apéritifs include dry sparkling wine, liqueur, fortified wine such as sherry or Madeira, aromatized wine such as Lillet, gin, Calvados brandy, anise-flavored spirits (pastis, ouzo, raki, arak), or a simple glass of dry red wine.

Sometimes cocktails can be served as an apéritif. Popular apéritif cocktails include, but are not limited to:

  • Kir: crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) topped up with white wine or Champagne
  • Kir royal: a variation of Kir topped up with Champagne instead of white wine
  • Martini: gin and vermouth
  • Spritz: Prosecco, a digestive bitters (Aperol, Campari, Cynar, Select) and soda water
  • Gin and tonic: what the name says
  • Negroni: gin, sweet red vermouth and Campari
  • Gimlet: gin and lime cordial (sweetened lime juice)

The opposite of an apéritif is a digestif. Digestifs are alcoholic drinks served after a meal, purportedly to aid digestion. Digestifs are usually strong beverages that are served neat (brandy, fortified wines, bitter or sweet liqueurs, distilled liquors) or strong cocktails consisting of a distilled spirit and liqueur, such as the rusty nail.

The origins of National Apéritif Day are murky, but don’t let it stop you from celebrating this amazing holiday. You can host a dinner party with apéritifs, learn new cocktail recipes, stock up your home bar, and post about your favorite apéritifs on social media with the hashtag #NationalApéritifDay to spread the word about the holiday.

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National Apéritif Day, food days, food and drink days, observances in the US, unofficial holidays