An apéritif (also spelled aperitif) is an alcoholic drink that is usually served to stimulate the appetite before a meal, contrasting with digestifs, which are served after meals.
Apéritifs are commonly served with something small to eat, such as crackers, cheese, pâté, olives, and various kinds of finger food.
This French word is derived from the Latin verb aperire, which means “to open.” There is no consensus about the origin of the apéritif. Some say that the concept of drinking a small amount of alcohol before a meal dates back to the ancien Egyptians.
Main records, however, show that the apéritif first appeared in 1786 in Turin, Italy, when Antonio Benedetto Carpano invented vermouth in this city. In later years, vermouth was produced and sold by such well-known companies as Martini, Cinzano, and Gancia.
Apéritifs were already widespread in the 19th century in Italy, where they were being served in fashionable cafes in Rome, Venice, Florence, Milan, Turin, and Naples.
Apéritifs became very popular in Europe in the late 19th century. By 1900, they were also commonly served in the United States. In Spain and in some countries of Latin America, apéritifs have been a staple of tapas cuisine for centuries.