Aperitif: Being a member of the Guild of Food Writers has been an unexpected boon in these dark times. As well as being an awe-inspiringly amazing group of the country’s leading writers, journalists and broadcasters, they are also full of fun. So an online aperitif tasting with Kate Hawkings promised to provide a little light booze-fuelled relief to the lockdown as well as being pretty fascinating. It did not disappoint.
The description of the event read ‘Avoiding bitterness is a way of avoiding death; it’s also a way of avoiding great pleasure. Bitter compounds are nature’s warning of possible poison – they trigger salivation, as well as the release of endorphins and adrenaline, to speed digestion of any toxins present. These responses make them ideal for aperitifs, so many of which have their roots in bitter plant extracts that were (rightly or wrongly) valued for their medicinal properties, for they stimulate the appetite as well as giving us a subconscious frisson of the thrill that comes from flirting with danger.’ I absolutely love this idea of a drink making a great aperitif because it takes advantage of our body’s natural responses. It is cunning science and fascinating.
Amo, Amas, Amat… Amaro?
In the event not everything we tried was strictly an aperitif. Kate’s description of the many categories of bitters that are out there was fascinating. Some of what we tried were digestives, including Italian amaros and one South African quinquina which I think works as either!
Loved the Kingston Negroni, made with Del Professore aperitivo and the random overproof rum sample we had – put hairs on your chest but highly recommend it!
It was a real education for me as this is one area that I really don’t know a lot about. I’m naturally quite resistant to bitter and sour flavours. They are only something I’ve started to countenance more as my palate develops as I get a bit older. I do love a Spritz when we’re in Italy (because who doesn’t). I enjoy a well made Negroni very occasionally but that was about all I knew about it really. Obviously as a regular visitor to Turin it is something that has crept into my life more and I really welcomed Kate’s expertise. Never stop learning!
Kate’s book Aperitif: A spirited guide to the drinks, history and culture of the aperitif is available now. Why not buy it for me for Christmas?