Getting to Know Your Cocktail’s Components

Chicago Food & Drink: Getting to Know Your Cocktail's Components|Groupon

Lisa Ladehoff, Groupon

This summer, it's time to take your drinking to the next level. And I don't mean drinking more, I mean drinking better. Get to know these three trendy—and refreshing—apéritifs, and then get to sipping them in cocktails around Chicago. You might even impress your imbibing buddies in the process.

Cocchi Americano was first made back in 1891 at an estate vineyard in Asti, Italy. Similar in flavor profile to dry vermouth, this apéritif is a fortified Moscato d'Asti wine that's been steeped with bitter cinchona bark that's rich in quinine (the base of tonic water), citrus peel, and a handful of other botanicals. It's super flavorful on the rocks with a splash of seltzer, but that's boring. Bartenders favor it for the bitter edge it lends to cocktails, and it’s trendy because it's still kinda new (it didn't make it to the US until a few years ago). Try it in the Fizz Americano at Sable Kitchen & Bar, where it’s combined with white mint, sambuca, lime, egg white, and soda.

Lillet Blanc's original recipe was altered back in the '80s when its makers changed the formula to cut back on the cinchona bark—the stuff that makes Cocchi Americano distinctly bitter, remember? Today, Lillet is a sweeter, more benign apéritif wine that often appears in the Corpse Reviver, or one of its many variations, and despite the change in recipe, it's cherished amongst bartenders and drinkers alike. Head to the Drawing Room to discover Lillet inside the Boxa' Chocolates, an amalgam of North Shore aquavit, amaretto, lemon, and celery bitters possibly made by Tom Hanks.

For whatever reason, and hopefully not because the riders are drinking it, Aperol is the official sponsor of MotoGP, the Grand Prix of motorcycle racing. This citrusy apéritif is the less boozy little sister of Campari—arguably looking, smelling, and tasting almost exactly the same—but with less than half the alcohol content. It received extremely high marks from Wine Enthusiast (90–95), for what the magazine claims are "delightful aromas of tangerine and rhubarb." Taverna 750's barkeeps mix it into their 50's Fashion, what I assume is their take on an old fashioned, except younger or something. They use Old Overholt straight rye whiskey, Aperol, squeezed orange, and Angostura orange bitters.