The Best 28 Aperitif Cocktails for Any Occasion

May 29, 2022 by

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Are you ready for aperitif hour? This pre-dinner ritual is now popular worldwide, featuring aperitif drinks which are usually low in alcohol and dry, to stimulate the appetite and stoke your taste buds.   

So, to inspire the pre- dinner line-up at your next get-together check out our best aperitif cocktails to savor in every season. 

1. Martini 

Freshly made vodka martini garnished with green olives

Simple yet sophisticated, the classic Martini gin cocktail par excellence combines gin and dry vermouth, for a bold aperitif choice. You can also easily adapt it to your guests’ taste, whether they prefer a Vodka Martini or the conversation-starting Pornstar Martini.  

2. Dirty Martini

Dirty Martini garnished with olives

The Dirty Martini takes a classic martini recipe and adds a splash of olive brine for an unexpected savoury taste. Dating back to the early 1900s, dirty martinis are now popular across the world and are an easy win for an eccentric aperitif.   

3. Champagne Martini

Sparkling Pink Champagne martinis served in coupes and garnished with berries

Take two of the most beloved spirits, Champagne and vodka, and combine them together for a bubbly pre-dinner drink. A perfect toast to any occasion, the super easy recipe will never leave you unprepared at aperitif hour. Discover the recipe. 

4. Cosmopolitan

Close up of Cosmopolitan cocktail, served in coupe glass and garnished with lime

SATC fans, raise a toast to Carrie Bradshaw’s favourite cocktail. While the Cosmo made the mainstream in the noughties thanks to Sex and the City, it’s actually a 1970s era aperitif made from a mix of cranberry, citrus and vodka. 

5. Caipirinha

Refreshing Caiprinhas with muddled lime

With just one sip of a Caipirinha, you’ll find yourself transported to the tropics. Brazil’s national drink is a simple aperitif with a sour note. Starring cachaça and limes, and deliciously balanced by granulated sugar, a Caipirinha is perfect as a fresh aperitif in summer when a vacation is on your mind.  

Tip: Swap the cachaça for rum to make a Caipirissima or vodka for a Caipiroska 

6. Tequila Sunrise

Long Italian Sunrise Cocktail garnised with pineapple and orange

Made popular by the Rolling Stones who made it their flagship cocktail for their 1972 US Tour, Tequila Sunrise is a sweet, tropical aperitif. Combining tequila, orange juice and grenadine (in this order), a Tequila Sunrise is the ideal aperitif drink for summer. Its name comes from the aesthetic effect of the ingredients layered up together, recalling a red, warm sunrise. Make it in a pitcher for a quick win with your friends.

7. Lime Margarita

The Lime Margarita, a zesty and invigorating blend of tequila, triple sec, and lime.

Some say it was invented by a socialite in Dallas in 1948, others say the Margarita is a spin on the Daisy, a cocktail involving gin, citrus, orange liqueur and soda. Regardless, the Margarita has earned its place in cocktail lovers’ hearts. With its sweet-and-sour kick, this aperitif cocktail is perfect for summer and one of the easiest to make at home. Discover the classic Margarita recipe.   

8. Blood and Sand

Blood and Sand Cocktail with orange peel garnish

Known as the whiskey cocktail that whiskey haters will love, the Blood and Sand is one of the few Scotch-based classics. Little is known about its origin, only that it owes its name to the 1922 bullfighter film starring Rudolph Valentino. Featuring scotch, cherry brandy, sweet vermouth and orange juice, the Blood and Sand is a sweet and citrusy kick for a stylish aperitif.

9. French 75

French 75 Cocktail

Named after the fast-firing 75mm field gun that the French used during World War I, the French 75 cocktail is thankfully much friendlier. Featuring the golden duo of gin and Champagne, this aperitif gin cocktail is a true classic. Cognac is also a great alternative to gin.

10. Aviation 

A perfectly dreamy Aviation Cocktail

Aesthetic and taste equally contribute to making the Aviation one of the most popular gin cocktails. This aperitif drink owes its lilac shade to the crème de Violette liqueur and also features gin, maraschino liqueur and lemon juice for the ultimate floral explosion. Come to us from the Prohibition era, serve it for an eye- and taste-pleasing experience.

11. Gin and Tonic

Gin and Tonic with Trimmings

Classic and easy, the gin and tonic is a fresh cocktail drink that lends itself to many occasions, from pre-dinner drinks with friends to at-home parties. Requiring only two ingredients, it’s simple to prepare and is the perfect flavour combination.  

12. Negroni 

bright red negroni cocktail with orange twist

Stroll through the streets of Milan at aperitif hour and you will notice many red-hued glasses shining against the falling sun. Negroni is one of the classic aperitif cocktails, dating back to the early 20th century, and still loved all over the world. It manages to be simple yet sophisticated, with its combination of gin, vermouth, and Campari. To make the perfect Negroni, pour all ingredients in equal parts into a glass filled with ice and stir. 

13. Aperol Spritz

Bright aperol spritz on ice

A sip of this aperitif drink and you will find yourself in Piazza San Marco, Venice. The Italian aperitif Aperol Spritz cocktail pairs Aperol, bubbly wine (usually prosecco), and sparkling water creating a refreshing mix. It’s low enough in alcohol to start drinking early and still make it to dinner. What’s more, it’s easy to make as it is to drink: simply combine all liquids in a wine glass filled with ice and serve.  

14. Campari and Soda

Two people enjoying a campari with olives

Simplicity is key in this classic aperitif that enhances the bitter and herbal flavour of Campari. With just two ingredients, the Campari and soda is also called the daytime gin and tonic and has a refreshing flavour profile. Make the best Campari and Soda by combining the ingredients in a Collins glass with ice and garnish with an orange wheel. Result guaranteed. 

15. Gimlet

Close up view of a pair of Gimlet cocktails garnished with lime wedges and served on a copper-rimmed serving platter

The Gimlet is a classic British cocktail with roots in the 19th-century Royal Navy. Scurvy was a big problem back in those days, and when vitamin C was found to be the cure, citrus juice was prescribed to sailors. Of course, these intrepid adventurers spiked it with a smidge of gin. The drink set sail, and the Gimlet was born. These days a touch of simple syrup is added for balance, but the soul of the cocktail remains the same as it was on the high seas.

16. Negroni Sbagliato

Negroni Sbagliatio

Sbagliato means ‘broken’ in Italian, which refers to the fact that the drink was first poured by mistake when a bar owner added Prosecco to a classic Negroni instead of gin. Happily, the sparkly mistake was equally delightful, and we love a Negroni Sbagliato as a lighter daytime spin-off of the dapper original. 

Read next: 20 Aperol Cocktail Recipes to Try Today

17. Hugo Spritz

Front view of Hugo Cocktail garnished with lime wheels

Made with elderflower liqueur, Prosecco, and club soda, the Hugo Spritz is a delightful floral drink that packs a flavourful punch at a nice low ABV. This makes it the perfect after-work drink to serve if you’re living the lighter side of life. If you do want to give it an extra kick, you can add a bit of gin, but this cooling cocktail is equally delicious without. 

Go floral! 8 Tasty Elderflower Cocktail Recipes You’ll Adore 

18. Paper Plane

Paper Plane Cocktail

The Paper Plane drink recipe is fruity and sweet with a strong bourbon backbone and a gorgeous note of bitterness that lingers like the last note of a truly great song.  

19. Last Word Cocktail

Top View of Last Word Cocktail with Maraschino Cherry garnish and fresh limes on marble table

This cocktail comes with a bit of attitude and will leave a lasting impression on your guests. According to drink legend, the first Last Word was mixed together at the Detroit Athletic Club’s bar in the early 1920s. We suggest serving these prohibition-era gin cocktails with simple dessert pairings— letting this delicious drink have the final say.

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20. Boulevardier

Boulevardier Cocktail

The winter Negroni aka the Boulevardier was invented by an American-born writer who lived in Paris. He was a well-to-do man-about-town who named the cocktail after his French magazine, and voilà — the Boulevardier was born. It has the same nuts and bolts as a Negroni but it replaces gin with whiskey. Sip it slowly with your feet up and enjoy wave after wave of whiskey satisfaction.   

21. Manhattan

Front view of Manhattan Cocktails garnished with fresh cherries

No list of aperitif cocktails would be complete without the mighty Manhattan. It was the preferred sipping cocktail of every well-to-do 1800s socialite, and it’s still popular today. At first glance, it may seem a little daunting because it’s just booze served straight up, but don’t be fooled. It has some kick—but when shaken over ice and enjoyed slowly, it’s glorious. 

22. Vesper Martini

Vesper Martini Cocktail

The Vesper Martini was made famous by 007 himself and gets its name from Bond girl Vesper Lynd, the love interest in the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. Bond’s original mix contained gin, vodka, and Kina Lillet, a now-discontinued bitter aperitif, and was served—of course—shaken, not stirred. These days, the Kina Lillet is usually substituted with either Lillet Blanc or Cocchi Americano.

23. Dry Martini

50 50 martini with lemon twist on a silver tray

This iconic Dry Martini is one of the cocktail greats that will never go out of style. The simplicity of the easy yet striking combination of gin and vermouth has made it a drink for the ages.  

Next up! Everything You Need to Know About Vermouth

23. Hanky Panky

Hanky Panky cocktail garnished with an orange peel twist

Gin makes this drink a little naughty, while sweet vermouth makes it a little nice. But it’s the addition of the Italian amaro (bitters) that gives the Hanky Panky cocktail its unique and complex flavour. With zesty orange flavours and herbal undertones, the Hanky Panky cocktail is, in our opinion, one of the best prohibition gin cocktails ever invented. 

24. Americano

An Americano cocktail with orange garnish

What originated in Italy quickly became an American go-to cocktail. Known for its classic and refreshing taste, the Americano’s name is a nod to its popularity among American tourists visiting Italy in the early 20th century.

25. Vieux Carré

Vieux Carré cocktail with orange peel garnish

The staunch-yet-dapper Vieux Carré is a classic Mardi Gras drink. The Manhattan-inspired drink takes its name from the French term for the French Quarter, which is the oldest part of New Orleans.

26. Rob Roy

Rob Roy Cocktail with cherry garnish

The delightful Rob Roy is basically a Manhattan cocktail, but instead of rye whiskey, it features Scotch. It seems like a small change, but the two drinks couldn’t be more different. The Manhattan has a peppery and spicy edge, while Rob Roy features vanilla, fruit, and a lingering peaty finish.

27. Orange Blossom

Orange Blossom cocktail

This dainty gin cocktail is often the toast at weddings as it symbolises all the romantic things like eternal love, good luck, and fertility but its evergreen charm makes it a perfect serve for any occasion. The Orange Blossom Cocktail is fresh and citrusy with a mix of orange juice, gin, and sweet vermouth. Not only does it taste sublime, but it’s also a very good-looking cocktail too.

28. Vodka Tonic

Refreshing Vodka Tonic served on ice with a rosemary and lime wedge garnish

Gin is probably the first thing you think about when deciding what to mix tonic water with, but mixing vodka with tonic is a classic choice—especially if you prefer a more bittersweet vodka drink. Simple and sophisticated, this slow sipper is an excellent drink for casual get-togethers with friends.


An aperitif is usually a dry, lightly alcoholic drink to be enjoyed before meals. Some cocktails can be enjoyed as aperitifs. On the other hand, many cocktails have a higher alcohol volume and sugar content, which both compete to suppress appetite and don’t make them for good aperitifs. 

Cocktails containing gin, vermouth and dry wines are perfect for aperitif hour. Campari and Aperol are also aperitif stars and have been used as appetite stimulants for centuries.

Aperitif is a French word from the Italian aperitivo, which means “to open”. Pre-dinner drinks are called this way because they open the doors to appetite before the main meal. 

Serve the aperitif as soon as your guests arrive with some bites like olives, cheese and crackers. Your drinks should be chilled or over ice according to the recipe. 

An aperitif is typically a fortified wine or a spirit-based drink that is consumed before a meal to stimulate the appetite. Examples of aperitifs include vermouth, sherry, Campari, Aperol, and Lillet. These drinks are often light and refreshing, with a lower alcohol content compared to other spirits. They are known for their herbal, bitter, or citrus flavors, and are meant to awaken the taste buds and prepare the palate for the forthcoming meal.

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