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Great Beginnings: Start Your Date with an Aperitivo…

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As we head into the New Year, an attitude adjustment is one of the best resolutions on the list. Harness the spirit of newness that accompanies the first month of the year and look at things through a brighter lens. Whether you’re single and looking to enter a relationship, or a few dates in and looking to jump start, now is the time!

The Aperitif or Aperitivo has long been mistaken for happy hour, but half-price wings and beer specials have nothing on these quirky cocktails. Low in alcohol, and often based on bitters (first concocted for their digestive properties and currently enjoying stardom among hipster bartenders), the aperitif offers just the right punch of tipsiness to kick off the night while keeping your cool.

Here’s a roundup of some standard sippers and my tips on where and when to drink them — with whom is up to you!

  • Aperol Spritz

This Italian favorite combines bitter orange and bubbles — either Prosecco (try Canevari Brut), or a dry white wine with a dash of sparkling water. Aperol is a touch sweeter than Campari (see below), and when garnished with an orange, it really blossoms. Despite the orange-red color, this drink knows no gender stereotype and is best served on ice. It raged to popularity a few years ago on this side of the Atlantic, and you can know find one in just about every major city. Pull up a seat at the bar while waiting for your table, or your date. It’s clean and not particularly seasonal, and remains neutral on the palate. Keep an open mind and let the citrus infuse scents infuse you with sunny optimism.

  • Campari and Soda

The sturdy older brother to the slightly sweeter Aperol, this tart orange-based bitter is bright red. When mixed with seltzer, it’s easily mistaken for the classic cape cod, but this cocktail doesn’t pack quite the same punch. In fact, even after three or four, you may feel slightly invigorated, but there’s no risk of waking up the next day in a strangers bed, or rummaging through your handbag for your panties. Campari has a bold bitter taste and is my choice to precede a particularly heavy meal — think steakhouse — or an anxiety-ridden date. It will loosen up your mind and your appetite, while enabling you to enjoy everything and everyone that comes your way.

  • Pastis

A Provencal classic, Ricard and Pernod are the brand names you’re most likely to find of this anise-based liquor. It’s usually served on the rocks and accompanied by a glass of water. Dilute it as you go, and don’t be shy to ask for more. Pastis is quite strong, and the licorice flavor isn’t for everyone. That said, the distinctive aroma and pale green color couldn’t be more summery. It naturally freshens your breath as well, so try this one before a seafood meal at a sidewalk café, or better yet, seaside. Your date might not know what it is, so you’ll also have something to talk about!

Annie Shapero is the Founder/CEO of DiVino wine events planning and wine consulting, currently operating in New York City.
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