12 Best Aperitif Cocktails to Serve Before Dinner

 Aperitifs are an integral part of European dining culture: whether you’re eating at a Michelin restaurant or your friend’s Italian grandmother’s house it’s likely you’ll be offered an aperitif to whet your appetite and prepare you for the meal ahead.

A French word with Latin origins, aperitif means “to open” which is what it symbolically does for your dining experience. As such, aperitif cocktails should always be served before dinner. The after-dinner version is a digestif, which is a different category entirely.

If you want to add a touch of class and sophistication to your dinner parties check out these 12 aperitif pre-dinner cocktails that are sure to impress your guests.

The BEST Aperitif Cocktails

Aperol Spritz

The Aperol Spritz, with its vibrant orange hue and refreshingly fizzy lightness is the epitome of a great aperitif. Its sweet and subtle flavor make it an ideal pre dinner cocktail.

The Recipe

Fill a wine glass with ice. Mix together 3 oz Prosecco, 2 oz Aperol, and top it with 1 oz club soda. Garnish your drink with a slice of fresh orange.

Aperol Spritz aperitif cocktails


Whenever I think “aperitif”, the Negroni is immediately what jumps to mind. As a lover of Italian cuisine I can’t count the number of times I’ve sipped a glass (or two) of this famous Florentine cocktail before dinner.

The Recipe

Equal parts (1 oz of each) of gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth, stirred and served over ice with an orange peel garnish.

Negroni cocktail on a wooden table with an orange peel garnish

 Dry Martini

There’s never a bad time for a martini, but the Dry martini with its crisp flavor makes for a particularly satisfying pre-dinner cocktail.

The Recipe

Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass with ice. Put in 2 1/2 oz London dry gin and 1/2 oz dry vermouth. Stir, and strain it into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist or green olive. Simple but satisfying.

Dry martini aperitif cocktail with three olives as a garnish

French 75

With its combination of citrus freshness and the elegance of Champagne, the French 75 is an invigorating and sophisticated aperitif cocktail.

The Recipe

Shake together 1 oz of your favorite gin, 1/2 oz lemon juice and 1/2 oz simple syrup. Strain your mixture into a champagne flute and top it with around 3 oz champagne or another sparkling wine.

Two French 75 cocktails in champagne flutes with a lemon next to them


Much like its coffee namesake the Americano is bitter and stimulating - although it tastes nothing like coffee. It has herbal undertones and is a great pre-dinner sipper to enjoy whilst looking through the menu.

The Recipe

This is a stirred drink, so no cocktail shaker is necessary. Fill a highball glass with ice cubes and add in 1 1/2 oz Campari and 1 1/2 oz sweet vermouth. Top it with 2 1/2 oz soda water and garnish with an orange twist.

Americano pre-dinner cocktail with a lemon slice and straw

Gin and Tonic

There are few things more refreshing than a good old G & T. The juniper notes of gin pair effortlessly with the mild flavor of tonic. What’s more, it’s an incredibly easy drink to prepare. If you want a pre dinner palate cleanser without all the hassle, you can’t go wrong with a gin and tonic.

The Recipe

Fill a highball glass with ice. Put in 2 oz gin and top it with tonic water. Garnish it with a lime wedge or wheel. A drink so simple it almost makes itself.

Two glasses of gin and tonic on a white tray with lime wedges

Kir Royale

The Kir Royale is pure elegance in a glass. The sweetness of the crème de cassis contrasts beautifully with the dryness of the Champagne, creating a luxurious start to any meal.

The Recipe

Pour 1/2 oz of creme de cassis into a champagne flute. Top it with champagne and garnish it with a few raspberries or a lemon twist.

Two Kir Royale aperitif cocktails in champagne flutes with raspberries as a garnish

Dry Vermouth on the Rocks

Sometimes in life the simple things are the best. Dry Vermouth - the all important ingredient in so many aperitif cocktails - also works great by itself as a before dinner drink.

The Recipe

Just 2 oz dry vermouth.  Serve it over ice, garnished with a twist of lemon or an olive.

Dry vermouth on the rocks with ice cubes, olives and a lemon twist

Campari and Soda

The bitterness of Campari, balanced with the effervescence of soda, creates a refreshing and invigorating aperitif.

It's perfect for cleansing the palate and whetting your appetite. Try to use a high quality sparkling water like San Pellegrino for a crisper taste.

The Recipe

Pour 2 oz Campari into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with around 6 oz soda water, and garnish with a slice of lemon or orange.

Campari and soda in a glass, white an orange slice, on a white table


The Manhattan is a behemoth of the classic cocktail world. Pure sophistication in a glass. It’s stronger than some of the other aperitifs on this list but the combination of bourbon, vermouth and bitters makes for an excellent pre-dinner drink.

The Recipe

Add 2 oz rye whiskey,  1 oz sweet vermouth and 2 dashes Angostura bitters to a mixing glass with ice. Stir until well chilled, and strain it into a chilled coupe or martini glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Manhattan cocktail on a blue table with a cocktail shaker in the background


A Mimosa isn’t just a brunch cocktail. Its light, citrusy sweetness with the sparkle of Champagne, makes it a refreshing choice as an aperitif.

The Recipe

Pre-chill a champagne flute. Pour champagne or sparkling wine until the glass is half full, and top it with fresh orange juice. Simple, but tasty.

Four Mimosa aperitif cocktails with orange wedges, and orange slices on a wooden table

Paper Plane

The Paper Plane is a cocktail with an interesting back story - created by the famous bartender Sam Ross and named after the M.I.A song “Paper Planes”. It is a delicate balance of sweetness, bitterness, and sour - a perfect aperitif cocktail.

The Recipe

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add 3/4 oz bourbon, 3/4 oz Aperol, 3/4 oz Amaro Nonino Quintessentia, and 3/4 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice. Shake until well chilled and strain it into a coupe glass.

Paper plane cocktail on a wooden table, with a lemon peel garnish

Pairing with Appetizers

Aperitifs are all about enhancing the dining experience. This is an excellent opportunity to showcase your food pairing knowledge. A well-paired aperitif and appetizer can be a match made in culinary heaven. For instance, the lightness of a Mimosa goes really well with seafood appetizers, while a Manhattan is more suited to something hearty like a charcuterie board. It’s not an exact science and there are plenty of combinations for you to choose from. Put a little effort into your food-cocktail pairings and it will pay dividends in the satisfaction of your guests.

Timing Matters

Aperitif cocktails are all about the timing. Serve them about 30 minutes to an hour before dinner. This allows time for your guests to savor their drink and for the appetite-stimulating properties to kick in.

Either serve them at the dinner table or in a more relaxed setting like your living room or garden. It’s a great way to get the conversation flowing and ease into the evening.

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