Aperitif is a general term for an alcoholic drink taken before a meal to stimulate the appetite. To perform this function most efficiently it needs to be not too sweet—a dry white wine or a dry sherry—but in practice a multitude of appetite deadeners, from cocktails and sweet sherry to neat whisky, have masqueraded under the title aperitif. The word, which was first used in English at the end of the nineteenth century, comes from French apéritif, which traces its history back ultimately to Latin aperīre ‘open up’ (as in English aperture)—hence, ‘opening the appetite up’. It does not do to remind sippers of preprandial fino that another English relative is aperient, ‘laxative’.
Subjects: Cookery, Food, and Drink.