The French Aperitif to Drink This Summer When You're Over Aperol Spritzes

We know, we know. You’re in love with Aperol spritzes, and why shouldn’t you be? They’re light, refreshing, not too sweet. They’re easy to make (maybe the single best recipe out there on the back of the bottle) and easier to drink. But even though there are endless variations to keep your spritz habit interesting, it’s time to make a change. And food writer Rebekah Peppler—author Apéritif: Cocktail Hour the French Way, which comes out in October—has a suggestion:

Put the Aperol spritz down and pick up a Lillet Tonic. 

“It’s my spritz equivalent,” Peppler, who had lived in Paris on and off for years before taking the full-time plunge in the spring of 2017, says of this French apéritif. It has a similarly light, bitter flavor and “it still has the spritzy effervescent vibe,” she notes. It’s as easy to make and (drumroll) you haven’t seen it absolutely everywhere. 

To make a Lillet Tonic, simply fill a Collins glass with ice, pour in one part Lillet and top with two parts tonic. Garnish with a wedge of lemon or grapefruit.

(By the time the weather cools down and you’re ready for a Lillet Tonic with Lillet Rouge, the book will be out, with a recipe for that exact drink waiting for you.)

In case you’re still wondering what exactly Lillet is, you’re not alone. 

“No one really knows what it is or how to drink it,” Peppler says of the aromatic fortified wine. As she explains in the book, it’s a blend of 85 percent wine and 15 percent liqueur. There are three varieties—Blanc, Rouge, and Rosé—and each one contains “a (secret, of course) combination of fruits, peels, and barks. Definitely included in the mix: sweet orange peels, bitter orange peels, and cinchona bark.”

Most often, it’s served neat or over ice with a twist according to the flavor: lemon goes with Lillet Blanc, orange with Lillet Rouge, and lime with Lillet Rosé, which “was launched in 2011, presumably to feed our generation’s unquenchable thirst for all things pink.”

It’s this type of ingredient deep dive—and amusing, astute commentary—that you’ll find throughout the book, alongside apéritif recipes for every season (warm, hot, cool, cold) and snacks to serve with them, because there are always snacks. It’s just one of the many beautiful qualities of this golden time of day, just before dinner, when French people gather together to unwind over low alcohol cocktails and little bites. Crack open Peppler’s book when it comes out this fall, and you’ll fall in love with this tradition like she did. And you might expand your horizons in the spritz department, too. 

Follow Rebekah on Twitter or Instagram for more apéritif (and general lifestyle) inspiration, and when you whip up your Lillet Tonic or another apéritif, tag us on Instagram with #HowISummer.

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