The aperitif or aperitivo is a style of cocktail that I've enjoyed plenty of times in bars, but it wasn't until this summer that I learned to enjoy the practice of it. Usually light in alcohol and often inclusive of the bright red bitter of Turin-style liqueurs (Campari being the best known) or vermouth, the cocktail is designed to whet the appetite, but all of this I already knew.
What had never occurred to me was that the ceremony -- stopping for an hour before dinner to sit and converse and enjoy a small snack with a drink -- could unravel so much tension of the day without clobbering you tipsy (or sleepy). Making the time isn't always reasonable, but try it a few times and you might find yourself seeing that making time to pause our lives isn't just a luxury.
While San Francisco may not offer the kind of weather and outdoor cafes that inspired the tradition in Europe, we can at least enjoy them at places like Range where they offer an aperitif hour. Bar manager Tayler Buffington has crafted a list of seven cocktails, like the crisp and vibrant Gemstone ($7, manzanilla sherry, pear eau de vie, lemon verbena, grapefruit bitters), and the fantastic Paris to Milan ($7, Cocchi Americano Rosa, St. Germain Elderflower, white verjus, prosecco).
Buffington describes the drink as a souped-up Aperol Spritz inspired by northern Italian way of drinking. Lightly bitter with a lovely floral kick from the orange and elderflower, it's not too sweet, and has bright acidity from the verjus, a tart juice made from unripened grapes. Add a little cocchi for depth and you're on your way to Milan.
Paris to Milan
1 oz. Cocchi Americano Rosa
1 oz. White verjus
½ oz. St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur
½ oz. Aperol
Prosecco sparkling wine
Combine Cocchi Americano Rosa, verjus, St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur, and Aperol in a mixing glass with ice. Stir to chill and strain into a wine glass with fresh ice. Top with 2 ounces of the prosecco. Garnish with an orange half-wheel.
Range, 842 Valencia (at 19th), 282-8283