The Beginner's Guide to Aperitifs and Digestifs—and Their Best Nonalcoholic Alternatives - Boisson

The Beginner's Guide to Aperitifs and Digestifs—and Their Best Nonalcoholic Alternatives

Posted by Boisson Staff on

If you’ve spent any amount of time browsing descriptions for alcoholic beverages or nonalcoholic spirit alternatives, you’ve surely seen the words “aperitif” or “digestif” many times. Aperitifs and digestifs are drinks that are enjoyed before and after a meal, respectively. Here is a little more info to take you from novice to expert on these meal-enhancing libations.

couple cheersing small digestif glasses

What Are Aperitifs and Digestifs?

Since an aperitif is served before a meal, it’s supposed to stimulate your appetite. The name comes from the French word apéritif which is derived from the Latin word meaning “to open.” Essentially, the aperitif’s meaning is to open the appetite.

These drinks are usually on the drier, bitter side. Sometimes they are served with small portions of food such as a cheese platter or hors d'oeuvres, or as an amuse-bouche for an entire aperitivo course of its own. In the U.S. in particular, eating more substantial food alongside your aperitif is common, hence the popularity of comforting snacks during Happy Hour.

Some of the most commonly enjoyed aperitifs include:

  • Vermouth
  • Champagne
  • Gin
  • Fino
  • Dry sherry

On the other hand, a digestif is supposed to help you settle your stomach and digest your food after a delicious meal. Bitter digestifs usually contain carminative herbs since they aid in digestion. Some of the most well-loved digestifs include:

  • Distilled liquors like tequila
  • Liquor cocktails like the Black Russian
  • Fortified wines like sweet sherry
  • Many varieties of brandy

Keep in mind that aperitifs and digestifs are both broad categories with diverse options! While both aperitifs and digestifs tend to have similar profiles, most people want their aperitifs to be more light-tasting and their digestifs to be darker and richer.

History of These Pre- and Post-Meal Drinks

Aperitifs have been around for many centuries. In fact, we know that they existed at least before the fifth century, if not much earlier. While some of this early history is a bit foggy, we do know that these pre-meal beverages started getting very popular in the 1800s when trendy cafes began serving them. The aperitivo trend was especially synonymous with the Italian city Turin which is where vermouth had recently been invented at the time. This drink continued to gain popularity throughout Europe. By the 20th century, the popularity of the aperitif had spread to the U.S.

orange apertifs

As for digestifs, these beverages were originally considered remedies for a wide variety of health problems. It wasn’t until probably the 1700s when they began being served after meals.

While using these drinks as a cure-all may have been a stretch, there is actually a bit of science as to why drinking a digestif after a meal makes sense. Because they are usually bitter, your body automatically wants to reject one of these drinks. Your body prepares to flush out the digestif in case it is a threat. This reaction helps your stomach break down the food you’ve just consumed in the most efficient way possible.

How to Drink Aperitifs and Digestifs

If you’re hosting an event, whether it’s big or small, make sure you offer guests an aperitif. This will get your guests ready for a meal and make the occasion more elegant and enjoyable. Even if you’re just dining alone, if you want an incredible food experience, you may want to stimulate your appetite with one of these popular pre-meal beverages. Usually, you want to drink an aperitif 30 to 60 minutes before the meal is served. 

After your guests have enjoyed their food, a digestif is the perfect way to keep the conversation flowing while also keeping your guests comfortable and satisfied. If you and your guests enjoyed a dessert or cheese course, serve the digestif after this. This is the perfect ritual at the end of the night when everyone is trying to relax.

If you are serving your aperitif neat, you should enjoy the beverage in a long-stemmed glass with a small bowl. Anything that’s poured over ice goes great in a rocks glass. As for a digestif, they will usually be best served in a shot glass, brandy glass, or wine glass.

The Best Nonalcoholic Digestifs and Aperitifs

While traditional aperitifs or digestifs contain alcohol, there are plenty of great alcohol-free alternatives, and of course, Boisson carries many of them!

Figlia bottles


For something fruity and spicy, you’ll love Figlia. Made with a blend of fruit and herbs, Figlia tastes most notably of black currant and ginger. In addition, it has notes of citrus, rose, and even some chamomile, making for a unique flavor compared to many other alcohol-free aperitivos on the market today. If you want a complex beverage to stimulate your appetite, this drink is perfect!

Roots Divino Bianco

If you’re looking for an alcohol-free alternative to a delicious Bianco vermouth, you’ll love Roots Divino’s Bianco Nonalcoholic Aperitif. This vermouth alternative is herbal, fresh, and sour. The perfect way to serve this Greek pre-meal drink is with a lemon slice to play off its sour notes.

Eva’s Spritz

Eva’s Spritz from For Bitter or For Worse is very similar to the Italian liqueur Campari—only Eva’s Spritz won’t leave you hungover! It’s a special concoction that’s infused with rhubarb and citrus and contains 12 botanicals. It’s highly refreshing and comes ready to drink as an alcohol-free cocktail.

Lyre’s Amaretti

For a digestif, amaretto is a popular option. If you want an alcohol-free alternative, you should try Lyre’s Amaretti. It tastes impossibly similar to the nutty liqueur. In addition to the primary nutty almond taste, you will also likely detect some tanginess and even some candied vanilla flavor. While some serve this alcohol-free amaretto over ice with lemon, you may also consider serving it in an affogato for an elegant dessert treat.

Gnista Floral Wormwood

If you want something like amaro for a strong, complex nonalcoholic digestif, you should try Gnista Floral Wormwood. It’s herbal and highly aromatic. You’ll also detect citrus (specifically orange) with a floral finish. Many prefer it mixed with tonic and served over ice. You can also use this alcohol-free drink as a base for cocktails.

Enjoy Nonalcoholic Aperitifs and Digestifs Without Sacrificing on Flavor

Now that you’re familiar with what aperitifs and digestifs are, it’s time to do some exploring yourself. You don’t have to be drinking alcohol to enjoy your pre- or post-meal drink. Any of these options from Boisson will not disappoint. Browse our many aperitifs and digestif options and find what you’d like to try today!

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