We’re talking three of my favorite subjects today. Cocktails, snacks, and bitter.
Cocktails and snacks, I mean, duh. I don’t think there’s any doubt in your mind at this point that they hold a very dear place in my heart. If you’re with me on that subject, I think we’ll be best friends.
And bitter? Well I’m sure you’ll remember that I studied the bitter taste during my MS studies. I spent two years immersing myself in paper after paper, experiment after experiment, trying to understand more about how bitter taste works. It’s super interesting, and an underappreciated taste.
So, let’s bring it all together with the aperitif. The aperitif is a classic Mediterranean drink, traditionally wine infused with bitter herbs, consumed before meals. Sprouting from the medicinal treatment of stomach problems with bitter medicines, the aperitif was thought to be a preventative measure against any digestive issues.
The aperitif is still a strong tradition today, though I always thought it was an excuse to have another cocktail before dinner. I mean, I’m obviously not complaining. But then after studying bitter taste, I discovered aperitifs have an actual benefit! Seriously. Take another sip.
So how the heck does that work?
Well remember all that talk in the past about bitter taste receptors? They’re not only on your tongue, but they’re in the gut too. When the bitter receptors in the stomach detect bitter stimuli, they trigger the release of a hormone called grehlin. Grehlin is the little guy that makes you hungry. Cue the pre-dinner munchies. But it gets better because grehlin hormone release also gets your metabolism going. That metabolism jumpstart aids in digestion. Researchers even found that mice treated with compounds that trigger bitter receptors ate more and digested more food than mice that were untreated.
You know what that means? You digest food better, even after eating more, if you start a meal off with some bitterness. Did you get as excited as I got when I read that? Bitter cocktail = a great meal. Snacks plus cocktails are now the best pair ever thanks to bitter!
The negroni is a classic aperitif that I have recently come to love. The bitter Campari blends together with dry vermouth and herbaceous gin for the perfect aperitif. Plus, that color! The negroni is generally served with an orange twist, but I like to switch it up with lemon for some brightness. If this drink is a little too bitter for you, I would suggest making it a spritz and adding some sparkling water to the game. That should mellow things out enough. You can also serve this baby on the rocks, but I love it chilled and served straight up so that it doesn’t get more watered down.
And now, my favorite part. The food. If you’re looking for some snack or meal inspiration, look no further. I’ve got some summer season bites as well as other anytime options to go with that hopped up metabolism and hunger.
Negroni with Lemon
1 oz gin
1 oz vermouth (sweet or dry depending on your taste)
1 oz Campari
- Chill the glass you’re serving the negroni in. Combine the gin, vermouth, and Campari over ice in either a tall glass or the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Stir with a long spoon for 20 seconds to chill the liquid. Strain into your chilled glass. Twist the lemon over top the drink to release some of the oils and then drop it into the drink. Enjoy!