77 French Aperitifs: Predinner Alcoholic Drinks For Your Bar cart🥂

101 Cute & romantic French terms of endearment and nicknames

Are you looking for the ultimate list of pre-dinner drinks? This article is more than just a list of 77 French Apéritifs to serve at your next social gathering or try the next time you visit France. It’s a guide to help you decipher these magical liquids. 

French Apéritifs: Drinks in France Explained With Plenty Of Examples 

We all know about aperitifs, aka predinner drinks, and their magical effects. And yet, so few of us know what they are, how to drink them, or which ones to choose. 

Throughout this French aperitif guide—that’s what we’re going to explore.

To anyone who wants to Frenchify their bar cart or learn more about these fascinating liquid elixirs, we’re about to open up pandora’s box and go through some fundamentals of French beverages with 77 Aperitif examples. 

Let’s start with the basics.

A Votre Santé

French drinks: Alcoholic aperitif drinks popular in France

What makes an aperitif drink an aperitif?

*NOTE: This list consists mainly of French-made alcoholic beverages. I’ve included a few drinks which are not originally from France because they are extremely popular drinks in France. I’ve also used the French drink classifications, which may differ from country to country. 

What is an Aperitif drink?

Traditionally, an Apéritif drink is a pre-dinner alcoholic drink served as an appetizer to stimulate the appetite, not squash it.  French predinner drinks tend to be lighter in alcohol than digestif drinks and have qualities that open the appetite. With the exception of table wine, most aperitifs are served chilled or over ice, even in the winter. 

Here are some qualities of French apéritif drinks. 

  • Aperitifs can be aromatized with plants, herbs and spices known for stimulating the appetite, such as drinks infused with the Gentian root. Adding herbs and spices has been important in preparing alcoholic beverages since the ancient Greeks and Romans for medicinal purposes. 
  • Sweet drinks, considered dessert wines in some countries like port or port like drinks, are aperitifs in France. 
  • Some aperitifs are bitter and sweet like Lillet: bitter to arouse the appetite and sweet to offset the bitterness.
  • Sometimes water is added to higher-proof alcohol like Pastis, which the ancient Greeks used to do. 
  • Some are dry, like white vermouth served over ice. 
  • Some aperitifs are cocktails like the Kir and Kir royal.
  • Beers and alcoholic ciders are also aperitifs but more prevalent in Alsace, Strasbourg and Northern France. 
  • Some French apéritifs are popular all over the country like Kir, while others are more popular in certain regions such as Pastis in the south of France.

Types of French Aperitif drinks French people like to drink

Although table wine, aka still wine, is an all-around popular drink, the French don’t hesitate to choose other types of alcoholic beverages, especially for l’heure de l’apéro and as a predinner aperitif drink. 

French aperitif survey 2019 isvin

A study conducted by ISV to learn the popularity of French aperitif drinks in France found the following:

  • 20% chose beers and ciders.
  • 30.4% chose spirits and alcohol, including cocktails, mixed drinks, brandy, whisky, and even port or port-like beverages considered dessert wines in some cultures and countries.
  • 30.9% chose wines, but we’re not just talking about table wine such as a rosé or glass of white, although those do figure in. That number includes aromatized wines, sparkling wines, and fortified wines. 

**THE LIST OF FRENCH APERITIFS STARTS HERE**

To kick off things, let start with everyone’s goto. 

Kir, it’s a world-famous French cocktail served chilled, enjoyed at parties and as an aperitif before meals. It’s fallen in and out of fashion over the years but remains a popular French drink for social gatherings because it’s refreshing and easy to make. 

KIR COCKTAILS:

When most people hear the word Kir (pronounced “KEER”), they think, “oh Kir Royal, that French cocktail from Paris.” 

Careful, you may offend someone from Burgundy if you say that because kir is a source of pride and a mixed drink that originated from Dijon, the capital of Burgandy (“Bourgogne” in French).

There are also many variations of Kir drinks; many are region-based. Some replace the wine, and some replace the Creme de cassis with other flavours. There’s even a Russian version. 

Here’s what you need to know about Kir cocktails

Kir Royal French Aperitif

1) Kir (aka Blanc Cassis) 1904

Kir with white wine and creme de cassis is the original Kir drink, not Kiry Royal. It’s sometimes called a blanc-cassis (White-Cassis) or vin blanc cassis (white wine cassis) which is what it was called from 1904 to about 1950. 

Who invented Kir and Kir Royal?

It’s widely believed in France that a waitress who worked at the Montechapet bar-Tabac at 42 de la rue Montchapet in Dijon (like the one in the Amélie movie) invented this white wine and creme de cassis cocktail, by accident. 

According to the owners who bought the Montchapet bar, a waitress inadvertently poured white wine in a glass that had some sweet crème de cassis in it. Rather than throwing the drink out, the customer drank it and loved it.

The other story is that the waitress was supposed to make a Vermouth and Cassis, one of the oldest aperitif drinks in France, which was very popular during the belle epoque until the blanc-cassis dethroned it. Instead of adding Vermoth to the glass of Cassis, she accidentally poured white wine. 

Montchapet bar-tabacr, and Birthplace of cassis-blanc aka the Kir aperitif

Kir recipe: Super easy a child could make it. 

To make a classic Kir, any chilled dry white wine and Creme de cassis will do.

Make sure everything is chilled. Pour Cassis first, followed by the wine to ensure all the ingredients mix well. Some people like to use shakers. 

  • 1/5 part Crème de Cassis: It’s ok to experiment with ratio if this is too sweet. The French recipe is sweeter.
  • 4/5 parts chilled dry white wine. 
  • Optional garnish: strawberry, pomegranate etc. 

Original Kir Recipe

Some Kir purists might argue that a Kir Blanc should only use ingredients from Burgandy.

  • Bourgogne aligoté (dry white wine)
  • Crème de cassis ( a black currant liqueur by LeJay Lagoute)

2) Kir Royal

The Kir Royal is what most tourists think when they hear the word KIR, but the Kir Royal came after the original Kir Classique (white wine and cassis.)

Kir Royal is the same as a Kir, but it’s mixed with champagne instead of white wine. 

Since this is an alcoholic drink from the Burgandy region of France, which initially only used products from that region, purists might argue that for this to be a true Kir Royal, you have to use crément de Bourgogne, which is basically champagne made in the Burgundy region.  

If you’re like me and most of my friends (not a purist), then any sparkling wine or champagne will do just fine. 

On a French menu, you might see this listed as  “Kir Crémant.”

Kir Royal Recipe

  • Champagne (or any sparkling wine: French “Crément,” Italian “Prosecco,” Spanish “Cava,” etc.)
  • Crème de Cassis

3) Kir Imperial (recipe)

  • Raspberry liqueur such as Chambord (a cognac-based black raspberry liqueur produced in the Loire Valle of France)
  • Champagne or sparkling wine 

4) Kir Médocain (recipe)

  • Rosé wine (purists will use rosé fril Médoc)
  • Crème de Cassis

5) Kir Cardinal and Kir Communard (recipe)

  • Crème de Cassis
  • Any Red Wine, however, purists will use the following: 
    • A Kir Cardinal: “vin rouge de Bordeaux”
    • A Kir Communard: “vin rouge de Bourgogne”

6) Kir Normand Or Kir Breton (recipe)

  • Cidre (alcoholic)
    • Kir Normand: cider is from the Normandy region of France
    • Kir Breton: cider is from the Breton region of France
  • Crème de Cassis

7) Kir Bianco (recipe)

  • Sweet white Vermouth
  • Crème de Cassis

8) Double K (recipe)

Invented in 1960 by French Cafés in Dijon in honour of the meeting between Félix Kir and Russian dignitary Nikita Kroutchev.

  • 1/5 part crème de cassis (or by taste)
    2/5 parts vodka
    2/5 part dry white wine

THREE IMPORTANT APERITIF WINE CATEGORIES:

When you think of wine, you probably think of table wine, but the French wine category is much larger.

It includes a total of three main categories and several subcategories which we will go into further detail throughout this apéritif guide. Keep in mind that there is a lot of cross-over between subcategories, for instance, Cointreau is a fortified wine, that falls into two subcategories: liqueur and aromatized. 

3 French Wine Categories

WINE CATEGORIES AND SUB CATEGORY CLASSIFICATIONS

(A) SPARKLING WINE: this includes Champagne and Champagne-like drinks.

 

(B) FORTIFIED WINES: Wines where additional alcohol is added during the fermentation process. There are 3 subcategories.

  1. LIQUEUR: Mistelle aka Vin de liqueur; The sweetest of all fortified wines because sugar is added. Some countries consider this a dessert wine. Not to be confused with liquor
    • FRUIT CREAM LIQUEURS: Crème de fruit aka crème liqueur: Much sweeter than standard liqueur and syrupy. 
  2. VIN DOUX NATUREL: Fortified wines are similar to port but not as sweet because no sugar is added. Spirit used to fortify is added to the wine before the end of the fermentation process, usually, Eaux de vie (brandy.)
  3. AROMATIZED: Wines that are infused with different herbs, natural flavourings, roots etc.

 

(C) Still Wine: This is table wine, Red, White, and Rose; natural wine that only contains alcohol from fermented fruit during the process.

A) SPARKLING WINE & CHAMPAGNE

Wine Category: Sparkling wine & Champagne

 

9) Champagne (1697)

Champagne needs no introduction. It’s a popular drink and a classic apéritif for any occasion. 

It’s impossible to know for sure, but according to legend, Dom Perignon, a French Benedictine monk from Champagne France, invented Champagne by accident in 1697. 

Dom was a title reserved for the Roman Catholic clergy and nobles

Sparkling wines are produced worldwide, but the Madrid system legally protects the name “Champagne” under an 1891 treaty. It can only be called champagne if both the grapes and wine are produced in the Champagne region of France.

On a French aperitif drink menu: you may see this listed as “Coupe de champagne,” which simply means champagne in a champagne glass. 

Here are some French champagne brands:

  • Nicolas Mumm
  • Veuve Clicquot
  • Moët & Chandon
  • Ruinart
  • Deutz
  • Tsarine
  • Dom Perignon

10) Crémant

Map of 8 AOC Crémant regions and 1 Champagne region

Crémant is sparkling wine made in France but outside of the Champagne region of France. 

Like Champagne, certain regulations apply to anyone producing crémant:

Crémant can only be called Crément if it’s from one of eight regions in France.  Bordeau, Loire, Alsace, Bourgogne, Jura, Limoux, Savoie or Die. Luxembourg also produces crémant. 

A glass of crémant may be listed on French aperitif menu as “Coupe de crément”

11) Mousseux

Crément and Champagne are specific to regions.

Mousseux is a general term for any sparkling wine made elsewhere and is often associated with cheaper or lesser quality sparkling wines. 

But that’s not always the case; for example, Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine that would be considered a mousseux in France but in terms of quality could be considered the equivalent to French Crémant or Champagne. 

Freixenet is a brand of Catalan Cava that you can find everywhere in France for around 6 euros.

B) TABLE WINE (aka Still Wine)

wine Category: Still wine, aka table wine

Typically the wine you drink throughout dinner is different than the wine you would choose for an aperitif. That’s a good thing because you don’t have to worry about which wine pairs best with a particular dish if you order a glass of wine as an aperitif. 

Because apéritif drinks are supposed to open the appetite, it’s best to pick a predinner wine that is light, fruity, crisp, and not too woody or tanniny. 

12) Rosé 

Rosé is the wine commonly chosen for the aperitif because it’s usually chilled, fresh and light by nature.

The most common types of red wine grapes used to make rosé are grenache, sangiovese, syrah, mourvèdre, carignan, cinsault, and pinot noir

13) Red Wine

Pick a fruity red wine that’s light, crisp, not too woody and doesn’t have a high tannin taste. Tannins = bitter. Here are a few examples. 

  • Pinot noir
  • Gamay
  • Saumur
  • Nicolas de Bourgueil
  • Beaujolais. 

14) White Wine

Fresh, light, fruity, and aromatic: these are the characteristics of white wines made to whet the appetite. Here are some examples of white wines that would make good aperitif drinks. 

  • Sauvignon
  • Viognier
  • Chenin
  • Chardonnay
  • Grenace blanc
  • Bourgogne-Aligoté.

C) FORTIFIED WINES (-Aromatized, -Vin Doux Naturels, -Liqueur)

Wine Category: fortified Wines

Hold on to your hats.

The Fortified wine category is enormous.

I did quite a lot of research on this topic to understand fortified wines and the fortification processes. I also did many experimental taste tests and my home barcart has exploded. 

What is a Fortified Wine?

Fortified wines are wines with an extra boost of alcohol.

To “Fortify” something means to change and build on the base structure by adding “eau de vie”, a distilled spirit such as cognac, brandy  or a neutral spirit to fruits such as grapes or apples.

This fortification process does several things. 

  • It makes the wine stronger than table wine in terms of alcohol content.
  • It preserves it. Before modern refrigeration, wine was fortified to prevent wine spoilage by increasing its alcohol content.
  • It makes it sweeter.  Adding distilled spirits such as brandy to fermenting fruits will prematurely stop the fermentation process of sugars (kills the yeast) which results in a sweeter drink. The later a spirit is added to the fermentation process, the dryer, less sweet the wine. This prcess is called muting wines. 

Because fortified wines tend to be sweeter than regular table wine, some countries, like the USA, and the UK classify fortified wines as dessert wines. 

In France however, they’re served by the glass before the meal, usually chilled or over ice as an aperitif. They can also be cocktail ingredients such as Vermouth in a martini. To further complicate things, fortified wines may also be served as a dessert drink in some cases. 

 You can also cook with some. 

Let’s quickly go over the three main categories of fortified wines. 

The three classifications of fortified wines are:

FORTIFIED WINES: Wines where additional alcohol is added during the fermentation process. There are 3 subcategories.

LIQUEUR: Mistelle aka Vin de liqueur; The sweetest of all fortified wines because sugar is added. Some countries consider this a dessert wine. Not to be confused with liquor

  • FRUIT CREAM LIQUEURS: Crème de fruit aka crème liqueur: Much sweeter than standard liqueur and syrupy. 

VIN DOUX NATUREL: Fortified wines are similar to port but not as sweet because no sugar is added. Spirit used to fortify is added to the wine before the end of the fermentation process, usually, Eaux de vie (brandy.)

AROMATIZED: Wines that are infused with different herbs, natural flavourings, roots etc.

**AROMATIZED WINE

Aromatized wines are the most interesting, most varied and my favourite type of aperitif drink. 

They are fortified wines that are infused with plants, herbs and spices known for stimulating the appetite. Adding herbs and spices has been important in preparing alcoholic beverages since the ancient Greeks and Romans for medicinal purposes. 

Some examples of aromatized fortified wine which you may know are:

    • Port and Madeira from Portugal
    • Sherry from Spain
    • Marsalla from Italy
    • Vermouth from France and Italy
    • Commandaria, from Cyprus (the oldest wine still in production). 

French Vermouth (Aromatized wine with wormwood)

Most people outside of Europe don’t understand that Vermouth is more than just a martini or cocktail ingredient. 

Vermouth is technically a wine that’s been fortified and aromatized. 

 In other words, Vermouth is a wine that’s been spiked with a spirit, usually brandy and infused with anything from citrus orange peels to herbs and spices, including quinine. Of course, there’s also wormwood, which gives vermouth its signature bitter flavour and its name “Vermouth.”

Italian Marini brand is actually just straight vermouth

Vermouth is a Greek invention.

Modern vermouth is based on an ancient Greek wine elixir created by Hypocrate, a Greek physician considered the father of modern medicine.

Hippocrate macerated wine soaked with bitter wormwood leaves and other spices in a concoction that came to be known as Hippocras. The powerful healing properties of wormwood were thought to cure a host of ailments, from stomach worms and head lice to menstrual cramps. He also prescribed it to anyone who had poor appetites, which is one of the reasons drinks with wormwood are excellent aperitifs. 

In 1786, Antonio and Beneditto Carpano, who studied to be a herbalist, invented a formula in Turin, Italy, based upon the Hippocratic wine recipe. His Vermouth became Vermouth Carpano and is considered the first modern commercialized vermouth. 

Today two counties are known for producing Vermouth. “Italian vermouth” or “Rosso” refers to red, slightly sweet vermouth.

Dry white vermouth originated in France and refers to pale, dry vermouths that are more bitter than sweet vermouths.

Both Dry and sweet vermouths can be enjoyed as an aperitif or in a cocktail.

Here are some well-known French Vermouths brands. 

15) Noilly Prat (French Vermouth founded in 1813)

French drink Aperitif: Dry Vermouth "Noilly Prat"

Noilly Prat white Vermouth is France’s first aperitif, created in 1813 by herbalist Joseph Noilly in a small coastal town near Montpellier, France called Marseillan.

Its made with dry white wine, gentian, bitter orange zest, Roman camomile, and nutmeg. The recipe hasn’t changed in over 200 years. 

Noilly Prat now produces three types of Vermouth: 

  1. WHITE: The original is dry and white
  2. RED: has quinine
  3. AMBRÉ. 

You can enjoy a glass of French vermouth by pouring some over ice with a squeeze of lemon peel to release the zesty oils and drink it alongside oysters if you like. 

16) Routin Vermouth (1883)

Routin Vermouths are produced in the Chambery region of the Alps. The company was founded by Philibert Routin, an herbalist who mixed more than 24 plants and spices into his Vermouth. 

17) Dolin (1821) 

Dolin French Vermouth

Dolin has been making vermouth in Chambéry, France since 1821.

18) La Quintinye Vermouth Royal Extra Dry (2014)

La Quintinye Vermouth Royal

Extra dry, blanc, and rouge.

La Quintinye, pronounced “La Queen-tin-ee,” is named after botanist Jean-Baptiste de La Quintinye, the creator and architect of the kitchen gardens of Versailles King Louis XIV.

This vermouth contains over 27 plants and spices, a selection of wines and is fortified with Pineau des Charentes Blanc or rough liqueur. They claim to be the first vermouth to use Pineau des Charentes in a world where most vermouths are fortified with brandy. 

How to order a Martini in France.

If you order a Martini in France, you'll be served straight up vermouth over ice from the Brand Martini & Rossi
This is a martini in France: Red or white vermouth served over ice. It’s a popular aperitif drink and sweet, no gin or vodka.

Ordering a martini in France is a little confusing for tourists and foreigners because Martini is an Italian brand of vermouth Martini& Rossi, not the James Bond classic. 

If you want the classic gin (or vodka) Martini cocktail garnished with an olive or a lemon twist, make sure you tell the bartender; otherwise, the bartender will ask you if you want red or white and serve you vermouth straight over ice with no gin or vodka or olive. 

19) Génépi (Fortified, Aromatized Wines with wormwood)

Génépi a bitter French liqueur

Génepi (Genepy) is a light green tinted liqueur named for the wormwood plant that grows natively at high altitudes in the French and Swiss alps. This species is collectively called Génépi and has been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times. 

Adding Genepi gives fortified drinks a bit more of a delicate and floral flavour.

Génepi is traditionally served as a digestif, but this magically becomes an aperitif drink with a splash of tonic or crème de cassis.  Genepi is also popular after a day of skiing in the alps. 

Anise and wormood (Aromatized fortified wines)

Anise is in the parsley family and tastes similar to licorice. It’s a bit of an acquired taste, even for some French people. 

Alcohol aromatized with anise are popular aperitifs in France on a hot summer day to enjoy with friends on a terrace.

20) Absinthe (Banned for over 100 years)

Absinthe is a magical green fairy drink with Anise and wormwood and its hallucinatory effects are legendary. So much so that it was banned for nearly 100 years until recently. 

Rest assured, you won’t hallucinate or have any crazy side effects that differ from other types of alcohol and spirits. Artemisia absinthium (grand wormwood) was wrongly identified in the 1900s as the cause for people to hallucinate and act like crazies when in fact, people were just drinking too much and getting wasted. 

Before absinthe was absinthe, and before it became associated with hallucination with crazy side effects, it was a magic elixir, a sort of all-purpose Anise and wormwood cure-all to relieve symptoms of various ailments. 

Absinthes predecessor was concocted in 1790 by Pierre Ordinaire, a French doctor living in exile in Switzerland.

In 1797, it became commercially available when Major Dubied bought Dr. Ordinaire’s recipe and began manufacturing it in Couvet, Switzerland. Major Dubied modified the recipe by adding sweet fennel and other medicinal and culinary herbs, including green anise, which is where the drink gets its famous green colour and became known as the green fairy.

By the 1860s, during the Belle epoque, Absinthe was the “IT” apéritif drink for “L’heure d’apéro”. L’heurre d’apéero became known as “l’heure verte” (the green apéro hour). Famous people such as Vincent Van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, Edward Munch, Oscar Wilde were known to drink Absinthe in large amounts. 

French drink: Absinthe a French aperitif

How to serve:

  • Savour this drink by pouring one shot of absinthe into a glass (usually a Pontarlier glass).
  • Then place a special slotted absinths spoon on the glass to hold a sugar cube
  • Slowly pour ice-cold water over the sugar cube and enjoy.

Because anise oils don’t dissolve in water, a louche, or white cloudiness, is formed when water is added to absinthe.

21) Le pastis (The Classic Anise flavoured French Provençal Apéritif)

French drink: Aperitif drink Pastis

The Greeks have “Ouzo,” Italians have “Sambuca,” the Turks have “Raki,” and the French have “Pastis,” which means to “mash-up” from Occitan, one of the regional dialects in southern France. 

Pastis (pronounced POSS-Steese) from Marseille is one of many anise-based French drinks and part of an old Mediterranean tradition that dates back to the ancient Greeks from the Massalia colony that founded Marseille over 2500 years ago. 

In 1932, 17 years after Absinthe was Banned, Paul Ricard commercialized Pastis to replace the French thirst for absinthe, minus the controversial wormwood. Pastis was an instant hit and still is today, especially in the south of France. 

The difference between absinthe and Pastis

Where absinthe is a spirit made with green anise and the controversial wormwood, pastis is made with star anise, fennel, licorice, and various aromatic plants depending on the recipe. Then sugar is added making Pastis a liqueur rather than a spirit.

There are several regional brands of Pastis, but here are the most well-known brands. 

  • Ricard (1932): First to commercialise Pastis in France. 
  • Pernod Pastis 51 (1951)
  • Henri Bardouin Pastis: Marketed as “high-end” pastis from Provence. It contains over 65 herbs and spices, thyme, rosemary, sage and mugwort, another species of absinthe. 
Pastis Henri Bardouin: An anise based French aperitif drink
Pastis by Henri Bardouin: My favourite anise-based French aperitif drink!

How to drink Pastis

The most important part of Pastis is how you serve it.

Pastis is 45 percent alcohol, much too strong to drink as an aperitif, which is why water is added.

Typically, when you order a pastis in a restaurant, bar or café, the waiter brings you a small pitcher of chilled water and a tall glass with a shot or two of Pastis in it. He may also bring a bowl of ice cubes. The server leaves, and then it’s up to you to pour the icy water into your glass filled with the pastis. 

As soon as you add water, the Pastis drink will magically turn a cloudy milky white (louche) caused by the oil-in-water emulsion, also called the Ouzo effect. 

Pastis recipe: 1 part Pastis + 4 or 5 parts chilled water.

  • 2 shots of pastis (in a tall glass such as a Collins glass )
  • 4 to 5 doses of water
  • Ice cubes are optional. (always add ice cubes after you add water, not before; otherwise, the anethole, an aromatic unsaturated ether responsible for the anise and fennel flavour, will crystallize, and you’ll ruin your Pastis drink.)

**LIQUEURS: (Mistelle Wines aka Vins De Liqueur)

Liqueurs are often served with or after a dessert, but in France, certain liqueurs are enjoyed as an apéritif.

Several Mistelle Fortified wines are made worldwide, but the most well-known is probably Sherry from Spain.

I’ve listed the most popular French ones below, commonly served chilled neat, over ice, in cocktails, or coffee. You can use them for cooking also. 

What is “Liqueur”?

Sweet liqueurs in France are called “Vins de liqueur” or  “Mistelle”.  The terms are often used interchangeably in France. The EU doesn’t recognize mistelle as its own category and simply considers it a fortified wine.

For simplicity, I’ll refer to Mistelles in this article as liqueurs, not to be confused with Liquor. 

Liqueurs in France are heavily sweetened and fortified with brandy to NON-fermented or lightly fermented fruit must (skin, pips, stems and all) which produces a sweeter fortified wine. 

Additional flavourings such as fruits, herbs, and spices are added depending on the producer. 

There are many different types of liqueur including a subcategory labeled crème. 

(Mistelle comes from the italian word “misto”, to mix)

Vin De Liqueur  AOC (Liqueurs that are name protected)

The following are Liqueurs that are AOC protected.

AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) means the wine came from a specific regulated region which can be a large area (such as Bordeaux) or a particular area (Listrac-Médoc–within Bordeaux). Each region has its own rules for allowed grapes, growing conditions and minimum quality.

A Vin de Liqueur should fall between 15-22 percent alcohol by volume – but in practice, most are around 17 percent. Because the grapes have not been fermented, the Vin de Liqueur retains more of the character of the grapes.

    22) Pineau des Charentes (AOC wine fortified with cognac 1589) 

    Pinneau des charentes: a fortified Mistelle French wine: A classic French aperitif drink

    Calling all ladies who don’t like cognac, try Pineau des charentes.

    Pineau des Charentes, from the cognac region, is probably the most well-known vin de liqueur in France. 

    The best way to describe this amber-hued liqueur is it’s a bit like a port and a cognac mixed into one bottle. It even smells a bit like cognac. But for someone like me who gags at the smell of cognac, even I like this because it has a sweet, wine cognac taste to it. 

    There are three versions of pineau des Charentes, white, red and rosé, which all make excellent aperitif drinks when lightly chilled, served neat or over ice in a tulip-shaped glass or as the base for French cocktails. It’s also an excellent digestif and dessert wine.

    The happy accident of Pineau des charentes

    According to legend, Pineau des Charentes was an accident created over 400 years ago in 1589. A winegrower from the town of Burie en Charante-Maritime in the Cognac region of France mistakenly poured some unfermented grapes into a barrel containing Cognac. A few years later, when he went to taste the contents in the barrel, he had a pleasant surprise, and that was the beginning of Pineau des Charentes. 

    23) Floc de Gascogne (AOC fortied with armagnac)

    floc de Gascogne: A French Aperitif and Desert wine

    Floc de Gascogne is a sweet florally fortified wine liqueur from the Gascogne region in southwestern France. It’s made with regional unfermented grape juice and fortified with Armagnac, both from the Gascogne region.

     Armagnac is classified as an eau de vie and falls into the brandy family of spirits. It predates Cognac, its cousin, by 150 years. 

    “Floc” means bouquet of flowers in the Gascon regional Romance language spoken in southwest France. 

    Henri Lamor is credited for first coining the name ‘Floc de Gascogne in 1954 from an old Gascon recipe passed down from generation to generation since the 16th century. As a result, there is not just one Floc de Gascogne but over 150 to try, each with its distinct characteristics. 

    Both red and white are mainly drunk as an aperitif, served chilled neat, over ice, or in a cocktail.

    24) Macvin de Jura (AOC fortified with grape pomace) 

    Macvin de Jura is fortified with eau-de-vie de marc, a grape pomace produced in the Jura region of eastern France. The name is an amalgamation of its contents Marc (Eau-de-vie de marc =pomace brandy) and vin (wine) = fortified wine.

    Everything must be matured in oak barrels for at least 12 months and voila! 

    Sweet oaky Macvin which can be white, red, or rosé, that smells a bit like grappa. 

    What is Marc? Marc is similar to italian grappa. Marc is a pomace brandy made with solid remains of grapes (pomace: skins, pips, etc.) and unfermented grape juice.

    Vin de liqueur Local (Liqueurs that are NOT region protected)

    The following liqueurs do not have AOC protection and can be made in any region of France, with less strict guidelines than AOC protected liqueurs. 

    25) Ratafia (fortified aromatized wine with various fruits and herbs)

    Ratafia is a sweet liqueur made with macerated peach or cherry kernels, bitter almonds, or other fruits. 

    It’s thought to have originated in Italy as part of an old peasant tradition handed down from generation to generation and mainly produced at home for family consumption. As a result, there are as many recipes as there are producers of this sweet beverage.

    Today Ratafia is a broad term used in various countries for several distinct beverage styles, including Spain, France, and even Switzerland.

    Ratafia de Champagne / Ratafia de Borgogne (fortified with pomace brandy)

    The most famous ratafia is Ratafia de Champagne aka  RATAFIA CHAMPENOIS, made in the champagne region using Champagne grapes, fortified with marc de champagne  (pomace brandy from champagne)

    Ratafia de Borgogne is made in the Burgandy region using Burgandy grapes, fortified either with

    1. marc de Bourgogne (pomace brandy from Burgandy)
    2. or Fine de borgogne which is similar to Cognac and Armagnac. It is an eau de vie produced from the distillation of the “Clair de lie,” i.e. the wine at the bottom of the barrel that is not clear enough to be bottled.

    Serve Ratafia neat and chilled or in cocktails. It also goes great with rich cheeses and desserts. 

    26) Cartagène (Languedoc region) fortified with marc brandy

    Like Ratafia liqueur wine, Cartagène or carthagène (from the Occitan language) is an ancient recipe passed down through the generations and mainly produced at home or by winemakers for their own consumption. 

     It’s mostly enjoyed chilled as an aperitif, but it can also be enjoyed as a digestif accompanied by melon, chocolate, dried fruits, foie gras, as well as an aged compté, Roquefort cheese, and certain desserts.

    It comes in red, rosé, white or golden. 

    27) Caroise (Beziers) fortified with Marc brandy

    28) Rikiki (beaujolais)

    From the Beaujolais region is Élixir des anges (Elixer of the angels) better known as Rikiki.

    Serve this sweet liqueur very chilled as an aperitif, with melons, with chocolate or red fruit desserts. It is also surprising with blue cheeses such as Roquefort.

    29) Hypocras wine

    Hypocras: medieval mulled wine aperitif

    Hippocras wine, sometimes spelled Hippocras or Hypocras, is an ancient spiced or mulled wine made from red wine mixed with sugar or honey and flavoured with spices, including cinnamon ginger, cloves, cardamom and possibly heated. It’s very similar to spiced glühwein aka mulled wine aka vin chaud in France, and Spanish Sangria,

    Throughout medieval Europe, it was first called “claret” or “piment”(pepper or chilli) but then became known as Ipocras ou Ypocras around 1390 and then Hipocaras around the 16th century.

    It’s the precursor to vermouth before herbalists modified the recipe. 

    In France, it was very popular until it fell out of favour around the 19th. Today, hypocras is produced in small quantities in small pockets around France, such as Ariège, a medieval village in Occitaine.

    As an aperitif, serve it chilled before a meal or as an ingredient in sauces. 

    Vin de liqueur: Fortified wines made with fruits other than grapes

    30) Pommeau (apple liqueur fortified with apple brandy)

    Pommeau de Normandy and Pommeau de Brittany are fortified apple wines made in the Mistelle tradition(liqueurs) by adding a blend of Calvados to unfermented apple juice.

    Calvados is a type of apple brandy.

    Because of its low alcohol content, 16% to 18%, it’s usually served chilled or over ice before meals as an aperitif or as an accompaniment to cheese, melons, chocolate and apple-based desserts. 

    31) RinQuinQuin 1898 (fortified Peach Wine Liqueur from Provence Rhone Region)

    RinquinQuin: Peach liqueur wine: A Provençal aperitif

    RinQuinQuin, pronounced “Ran Can-Can,” – means refreshing drink from the Occitan language.

    This vintage Provençal peach liqueur wine is a blend of peach leaves, three types of peaches (Cardinale, Coronet and June gold), cane sugar, Lubéron white wine and fortified with a neutral spirit following a traditional recipe that dates back to the late 1700s.

    The traditional way to drink RinQuinQuin as an aperitif is chilled on its own, on the rocks, or topped with tonic or sparkling wine. 

    32) Guignolet d’Angers (fortified cherry wine liqueur 1885)

    Guignolet: Wild cherry liqueur by Cointreau

    Guignolet is a French wild cherry liqueur first created around 1632 by religious monks in Angers, France, whose original recipe was forgotten until the Cointreau brothers revived it. It’s named after the Guigne, the main variety of cherry it’s made with. 

    As an aperitif, you can drink it neat and chilled, over ice, or mixed with white wine or champagne, similar to Kir and Kir Royal. 

    Guignolo the cocktail:

    Guignolo is a cocktail using three ingredients. (add in this order)

    • 2 parts Cherry juice
    • 3 parts Guignolet
    • 5 parts Champagne

    33) WalNut Wine (Fortified walnut wine liqueur ‘de Noix’)

    walnut liqueur: vin de liqueur de noix

    Vin de liqueur de noix (walnut wine) is a traditional sweet wine liqueur that was very popular in the past.

    It’s a recipe that dates back over 500 years and is made with green walnuts, red wine, alcohol, and sugar.

    You’ve probably never heard of French liqueur de noix because it’s traditionally made at home for the family, and the commercialized brands are not really sold internationally. Although you probably won’t find nut wine liqueur at a French grocery store, you can find it in specialty alcohol stores in France. 

    Italy has their own nut wine which you’ve probably heard of:

    • Amaretto made with almonds
    • Frangelico made with hazelnut
    • Nocino made with walnuts. 

    A popular (ish) brand for those that don’t want to make their own nut liqueur is noix de la Saint-Jean. 

    Traditionally walnut wine is served as an aperitif in France, but it also goes well with a cheese platter or as a delicious dessert wine served best with something chocolaty. 

    34)  GET 27 & Get 31 (1796)

    get 27 and 31 French drink aperitif

    Get 27 and Get 31 (pronounced JET) are two mint liqueurs and staples in the alcohol aisle in most French grocery stores. 

    Get 27 came first. This green-hued, mint flavoured liqueur was created by the GET brothers in 1796 and initially marketed as “La crème de menthe.” 

    Get 31 is a more recent invention from 1976, also a mint liqueur but more peppery. It is colourless and comes in white frosted glass. 

    Serve chilled or over ice and enjoy as an aperitif drink. As a digestif, serve at room temperature in a cordial glass.  

    35) Marie Brizard (1755)

    Marie Brizard is the first and oldest French liqueur house, created in Bordeaux in 1755. It’s also one of the few alcohol companies started by a woman. 

    Marie Brizard started with anisette liqueur, but today there are over 80 naturally flavoured liqueurs and essences, and around 30 non-alcoholic syrups

    As an aperitif drink serve:

    • On the rocks
    • With sparkling water
    • In cocktails (Margarita, Cosmopolitan, Blue Lagoon, Grasshopper, Sidecar, Mai Tai, Kir Royale)

    ****CREME DE FRUIT aka CRÈME LIQUEUR (Fruit cream liqueurs)

    Kir: French drinks, Aperitif made with Creme de cassis and alcohol, wine, champagne
    Kir is a mixed drink, so although it’s an aperitif, it’s also considered a cocktail

    A “crème liqueur” such as crème de menthe and crème de Cassis is a subclass of standard French liqueurs. 

    You may be wondering why it’s called “crème”! Is there cream in it? Is it the same as Baileys?

    No, unlike Baileys which is a “Cream liqueur” and contains dairy, Crème liqueurs are super sweet fortified wines with NO dairy. The word “Crème” refers to its creamy, near syrup-like consistency. 

    What’s the difference between Crème de fruit liqueur and standard French liqueur?

    • Crème liqueurs: Are up to twice as sweet as standard French liqueurs, with a lower amount of alcohol. (More than 250 grams of sugar per litre.)
      • For example: crème de framboise (cream of raspberry liqueur)
    • Standard French Liqueurs: 100 grams of sugar per litre and 15 to 55° proof.
      • For example Chambord

    36) Examples of Crème de fruit liqueur flavours

    Here are some examples of creme liqueurs widely available throughout France. I’ve only included some of the more popular ones. Otherwise, this list would be huge. 

    • Crème de menthe (mint liqueur)
    • Crème de mûre (French style blackberry liqueur)
    • Crème de menth (mint flavoured liqueur)
    • Crème de pêche (Peach liqueur)
    •  Crème de framboise (Raspberry liqueur)
    • Crème de cacao
    • Crème de Pamplemousse (grapefruit liqueur) This is my favourite for adding to champagne. 

    Creme de fruit is perfect for wine cocktails or with spirits

    After its heyday in the 14th century, crème liqueurs fell out of fashion and were viewed as dated or old-fashioned, but with the popularity of cocktails, fruit liqueurs are making a comeback. Kir Royal, for example uses Crème de Cassis + Champagne. 

    • Nuage de fruits rouge: crème de mûre + chamapgne
    • Rêve Estival: Crème de pêche + rosé
    • Vermouth + Cassis: (One of the oldest mixed aperitif drinks in France and the precursor to the Kir aka blanc cassis).
    • Royal Paplemouse: Crème de Pamplemousse + Chemapagne or crèmant
    • Rosé Pam: Crème de Pamplemousse + rosé

    ***BITTERS (AROMATIZED LIQUEURS)

    A bitter is an alcoholic beverage prepared with herbs and citrus dissolved in alcohol or glycerine that have a bitter or bittersweet flavour. The most well-known bitter is Triple Sec, aka Cointreau, which are the same thing. 

    37) Cointreau “Triple Sec.” (1885)

    Triple Sec Cointreau Poster: French liqueur Aperitif and desert drink

    Cointreau, first marketed as Triple sec in 1885, is a bitter and sweet, orange flavoured liqueur from Anjou, France. 

    Edouard Cointreau, the inventor, removed the words triple sec from the bottle to differentiate itself from others who tried to copy his success. 

    There are many myths surrounding how Edouard came up with the name “triple-sec,” which means “triple dry” in English. It may refer to the triple distillation process, or the three types of orange peels used in Cointreau liqueur: fresh sweet orange peels, dried bitter orange peels, and dried sweet orange peels.

    Cointreau claimed “Sec” or dry was for the lower sugar content compared to competitors that used more sugar to mask and soften the rough spirits added during the process. 

    Today the term Triple sec is a generic term used to refer to most orange liqueurs, including Curaço, a sweeter orange liqueur made on the Curaço islands since

    How to drink Triple Sec as an aperitif

    Cointreau is one of a handful of drinks that is acceptable to drink both as an aperitif and a digestif drink. As an aperitif, you can serve it chilled or over ice with a lime wedge and a bit of sparkling water or as a cocktail ingredient, such as in a Mexican Margharita, a Cosmopolitan, or a Kamikazé 

    Who inveted Triple Sec?

    Two French alcohol houses claim to be the inventor of Triple sec: house of Cointreau and house of Combier, by liquoriste Jean-Baptiste Combier who claims that he and his wife invented it in their Kitchen in Saumur France, in 1834 where Coco Chanel was born, 30 years before Cointreau.

    38) Grand Marnier: (1880)

    A variant of triple sec/orange liqueur is Grand Marnier which first appeared in 1880. It was originally called “Curaçao Marnier,” in reference to the aged brandy base rather than a neutral spirit which gives Grand Marnier a heavier and earthier taste. 

    39) Vin d’orange 

    Homemade vin d'orange: orange wine a French Provençal aperitif drink
    Me and a friend with our first batch of homemade vin d’orange (orange wine)

    (Orange Wine Liqueur, A Provençal Specialty People Make At Home)

    Vin d’orange is a traditional provençal fortified wine infused with bitter Seville oranges. English Marmelade is also made with Sevil oranges. 

    Vin d’orange is made in small batches in France and is hard to come by, even in France. Often people will pick oranges or buy them if they can find them at the store and make their own. 

    The process is the same as making Mistelles in that you add fortify wine with an eau de vie then add cut up Seville oranges and spice it up with whatever flavours you want, vanilla, clover, cinnamon, nutmeg etc. and add sugar. 

    Place the concoction in a big glass jar called a “bonbonne de Verre” and let sit for about 3 months and bottle up your homemade vin d’orange with bottles you have lying around. 

    ***BITTER GENTIAN ROOT LIQUEURS – LES AMERS

    (18 à 45°)

    Bitter Gentian root liqueurs had their heyday in the late-19th century but are having something of a revival, especially in the cocktail scene. 

    Wild Gentiane is a tall flower native to the French and Swiss Alps and Himalayan Mountains regions above 700 metres.

    The long tubular roots of the wild yellow Gentian are incredibly bitter-tasting and have been used in folk medicine and by herbalists in China, India, Europe, and the Americas, dating back to over 2,000 years in some cases thanks to its many healing properties. From an appetite and digestive aide to curing intestinal worms and treating snake bites, it seems to be able to cure everything.

    Beginning around the renaissance, Gentian has been mainly cultivated for alcoholic aperitifs and digestifs.

    It takes up to ten years for the gentian plant to reach maturity before Alpine Gentian harvesters (Gençanaïre) can dig up the thick, long roots using a unique tool called “the devil’s fork,” la fourche du diable. 

    digging up Gentian roots with "a devils fork" (fourche du diable) on mount Lozère © Odile Rival
    digging up Gentian roots with “a devils fork” (fourche du diable) on mount Lozère © Odile Rival

    The bitterness of gentian drinks is balanced by the sweetness of sugary alcohols, making it the perfect aperitif whether you drink it straight over ice or as a mixer in a cocktail. Try it with some crème de cassis or orange juice. 

    40) Salers (1885)

     Salers is the oldest of the French gentian aperitifs made in the Auvergne region of France. This bitter-sweet white wine liqueur is aromatized with Gentian root and other botanical flavourings. You may find Salers rooty flavour a bit of an acquired taste.  

    Try it over ice with a squeeze of fresh orange or lemon, 

    41) Suze (1885)

    Suze A bitter French aperitif

    Suze is a well-known French Gentian apéritif launched in 1889 which won a gold medal at the world fair of 1889 and again in 1900. By 1912 it was a hit and inspired picassos painting “La Bouteille de Suze”. 

    These days Suze has become something of a cult hit with bartenders around the world and might be more popular outside of France than in. 

    No one knows exactly how Suze is made; the recipe and process are proprietary but it is known that the root of the Gentian plant is distilled and infuse with a unique blend of herbs and fruit extracts. 

    While you could add this bitter aperitif to cocktails, the simplest way to have this as an aperitif is chilled over ice with a squeeze of lemon juice. Or enjoy it with soda, sparkling water, or tonic over ice. And as a cocktail, a white Negroni using equal parts Suze, white vermouth and gin over ice with a twist of lemon. 

    42) Avèze (1929)

    This Gentian liqueur was originally called Auvergne Gentiane. It’s a good starter or introduction to gentian drinks because it tastes milder than other brands. 

    ***OTHER AROMATIZED LIQUEURS

    43) St Germain Spritz (2007)

    St. Germain Spritz: A French liqueur aperitif with sparkling wine and sparkling water

    The Italians have Apérol Spritz, and the French now have St-Germain, a fortified elderflower liqueur. It’s a fairly new invention, created in 2007. It has won several awards, including the gold medal at Monde Selection three years in a row (annual non-competitive award open to food, drinks, and cosmetics products).

    Its claim to fame is that it is the world’s first artisanal French liqueur, made with up to 1,000 fresh, wild, handpicked elderflower blossoms in every bottle.

    Like the Kir royal and apérol spritz, this beverage is served best with a bit of sparkling wine or champagne. 

    1.5 parts St German, 2 parts prosecco or sparkling wine and 2 parts sparkling water, serve over ice and garnish with a flower or lavender sprig. 

    ***LIQUEURS: AROMATIZED AND WITH QUININE (Bitter Liqueurs That Fight Malaria)

    (16 à 18°)

    How do you get a bunch of French Foreign legion troops in malaria ravaged Africa to take their medicine? Put it in a bottle of alcohol!

     Several decades after Noilly Prat created France’s first vermouth and France’s first dry aperitif, the French government put out an appeal for a palatable way to get French troops in malaria-ravaged Africa /Algeria to get enough Quinine to fight Malaria, which was causing an unprecedented mortality rate, slowing down military operations and construction work undertaken by the army.

    Herb liqueurs all started this way, going back to the ancient Romans and Greeks when herbalists and Apothecaries would soak medicinal herbs and wood in alcohol to extract the active ingredients and preserve them to create elixirs to cure a host of maladies. Then sugar was added to make it taste better. For malaria, they’d simply add cinchona to the elixirs and voila, you have a Quinine liqueur. 

    This kicked off a new bread of French apéritifs with quinine, a substance from the bark of the South-American Cinchona tree or (Kina-Kina), an effective ingredient used to cure malaria. In alcohol, Quinine acts as a bittering agent in beverages, so these aperitifs tend to be heavily sugared and infused with fruits and herbs to mask quinine’s horribly sharp and bitter flavour.

    French quinine drinks share historical roots with the gin and tonic. While French troops were drinking quinine liqueurs to fight Malaria, British officers in India drank their quinine with gin, carbonated water and a twist of lime to cut the bitter taste. 

    44) St. Raphaèl (1830)

    St Raphael: sweet French aperitif

     One of the earliest successful Quinine formulas was a drink called St Raphaël.

    The original or classic St Raphael is a sweet ruby red coloured fortified wine containing Quinine, Gentian, bitter oranges, vanilla, and cocoa. It was created in 1830 by Docteur Juppet as a tonic to help the French troops in North Africa suffering from Malaria.

    According to the St Raphael company, Dr. Juppet became blind while researching the formula for his quinine-based drink but regained his sight after praying to Raphael. 

    St Raphael is still around, but it’s fallen out of favour in France, but it’s pretty popular in Quebec, Canada where you can often find them in the SAC alcohol stores. 

    45) Dubonnet & Dubonnet Rouge (1846)

     

    Dubonnet, a French drink "aperitif" made with wine and quinine wine infused with herbs: comes in red and white

    Dubonnet is a classic wine-based apéritif that was first marketed as a healthy elixir. 

    In 1846, 16 years after Dr. Jutt created St Raphael, the first Quinine drink to cure Malaria, a French chemist named Dubonnet created another wine-based drink as a way to deliver quinine to French Foreign Legion soldiers in the humid mosquito-infested terrain of North Africa.

    Dubonnet added a secret formula of herbs and spices to his elixir to mask quinine’s horribly sharp and bitter flavour.  Dubonnet’s wife liked it so much; she served it with little finger foods to her friends, and its popularity spread. Dubonnet is accredited with popularizing the French apéro time to new heights. 

    Serve over ice with a lemon. 

    According to Mr. McGrady, Queen Elizabeth’s former chef, her favourite drink is a gin and Dubonnet.

    46) Byrrh (1866)

    Byrrh: Fortified French sweet wine aperitif drink

    Byrrh, pronounced “beer,” is a red wine liqueur apéritif aromatized lightly with quinine and other herbs and spices, including bitter orange and coffee. 

    Initially created in 1866, it was popular as a French apéritif and also marketed as a health drink/tonic and was even sold in pharmacies.

    47) Picon (1837) the bitter beer mixerPicon bière is an orange bitter liqueur with gentian root and quinine: This French apéritif drink is meant to mix with beer.

    Don’t be fooled by the label. The first time I saw Picon in the store, I thought it was beer because the label says “Picon Bière.”

    This iconic caramel-coloured bittersweet famous French drink is made with orange peels, Gentian root, quinine, syrup, sugar and caramel and it’s meant to be mixed with beer. It’s widely available throughout France and a favourite in Northern France, French-speaking parts of Belgium and Luxemburg, where beer is popular.

    As the story goes, Mr. Gaéton Picon created a tonic to cure Malaria while doing military service in Algeria. The Malaria stricken troops loved his tonic. When Picon returned to France, he started producing his tonic as Picon in Marseille, France, in 1837, and the rest is history. 

    Today there are three versions: Amer, Bière, and Club.

    There are also hundreds of cocktail recipes that call for Picon as an ingredient. Outside of Europe, it’s challenging, if not impossible to find, but there have been attempts to recreate it in the USA. 

    You can drink Picon in 3 different ways: 

    1. Serve chilled with an orange citrus wedge. 
    2. Picon Bière: Mis this with beer. 
    3. Picon club: Mix this with wine. 

    48) Amer Bière (Another bitter beer mixer)  1885

    Gentian, orange bitters and quinine. 

    Amer Bièr, Frech for biter beer is from Alscase. 

    Pour it over ice and top it off with a nice lager beer.

    ***LILLET: (The Mythical French Quinine Liqueur )

    Kina Lillet: The original Lillet: A French apéritif

    In 1887, the Lillet brothers created Kina Lillet in Podensac, south of Bordeaux. “Kina,” short for the bark of Kina-Kina or (cinchona), contains malaria fighting quinine. 

    Lillet came 40 years after Dubonnet created his popular Quinine drink and nearly 60 years after St Raphael created his.

    Some anglophone sources categorized Lillet as vermouth and even stock it in the vermouth section but shouldn’t because it contains liqueur and doesn’t contain wormwood.

    But that doesn’t mean Lillet is not unique in its own right. Lillet belongs to a broad family of French apéritifs, making it very hard to put into a single category.

    Some French sources call it unclassable. It’s like the ultimate aperitif, a little of everything. 

    • fortified wine
    • liqueur
    • aromatized
    • bitter
    • contains a little quinine. 

    Its ingredients also make it unique.

    Lillet wines are made with local grapes from the Bordeaux region and blended with exotic herbs, spices and fruit liqueurs; sweet orange peels from southern Spain or Tunisia, bitter green oranges from Haiti, quinine from Peru. Everything is steeped in oak vats and then treated like Bordeaux wine during the ageing process.

    *Note KINA Lillet is no longer available: Now it’s just called Lillet, sometimes referred to as Lillet Blanc. They dropped the KINA and drastically reduced the amount of Quinine due to dwindling sales in the ’80s. Some sources say there is no quinine in the alcohol, while others say it still does.

    Either way, it’s still a fantastic drink.

    Today there are three versions, white, red and rosé. 

    49) Lillet Blanc (1887)

    french drinks; Aperitifs Lillet

    After Lillet dropped the “Kina,” it became just Lillet, and it’s probably one of the most well-known French apéritifs around the world and for good reason. It’s a refreshing sweet citrusy French drink made with sauterne grapes, fruit liqueurs, orange peels, quinine and herbs.

    Serve it the French way, over ice with a slice of orange, lemon or lime or use it as a base for a cocktail.

    50) VESPER COCTAIL: James Bonds Shaken Not Stirred

    By the 1950s, Lillet made its way stateside and caught the eye of Ian Flemming, who famously immortalized Lillet in his 1953 book “Casino Royale,” later made into a movie with the same name. 

    Bond asks for a bartender for a martini with Kina Lillet shaken with a large thin slice of lemon peel strained into a champagne goblet.

    James Bond Vesper martini made with Lillet

    • 3 Measures Gordon’s (Gin)
    • 1 Measure Vodka
    • ½ Measure Kina Lillet

    That drink became known as “The Vesper” after the original Bond girl, Vesper Lynd. It’s also the first time Bond uses the “shaken, not stirred” motto.

    Kina Lillet is no longer available, but that doesn’t stop novice bartenders from recreating the Bond Vesper Martini using Lillet blanc. 

    51) Lillet Rouge (1962)

    Lillet Rouge (red) was specifically created for the American market by one of Lillet’s grandsons in 1962. 

    It’s made using a blend of red Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, oranges, ripe dark berries, vanilla and other spices. It’s fruity, slightly tart and tannic.

    Served over ice with an orange slice, or with club soda and make a fizzy Lillet aperitif.

    52) Lillet Rosé (2011)

    Made from a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Semillion grapes, Lillet Rosé is fortified with lemon, orange brandy and quinine. It has hints of berries, fleur d’oranger and grapefruit. It’s the perfect middle ground between the white and the red version. 

    Serve over ice with a twist. 

    ***VDN: VIN DOUX NATUREL (Naturally Sweet Fortified wines: The French Port)

    (a subcategory of fortified wines similar to liqueurs but not as sweet)

    French aperitif muscat de rivesaltes vin doux naturels

    If you’ve ever tried Muscat wine, then you’ve tried a Vin Doux natural.

    Like Port wine, Vins doux Naturel (naturally sweet wines) are fortified wines, where a distilled spirit like brandy is added to very ripe grapes before they have finished fermenting.

    You may be asking yourself, a port-like drink as an aperitif? Yes, French VDNs have an alcohol content of around 15° to 22°, unlike ports from Portugal, which have higher alcohol content putting French VDNs in the optimal range for an apéritif. 

    It also goes well with chocolate-based desserts, cheeses and is served with certain dishes such as spicy Asian food. 

    What’s the difference between Mistelle and VDN?

    Vin de liqueur (Mistelles) and Vin doux naturels are very similar. The difference is in the process of fortifying the wines, i.e. the timing of the addition of spirits to the fruits. The earlier the spirits are added to the fruits, the sweeter the product. 

    Unlike liqueur wines, natural wines are not aromatized with anything, and no sugar is added other than the sweet nectar of the grapes they are made with. Hence the name “naturels.” Spirits are added later in the process of fermentation which also results in a fortified wine that is less sweet than a liqueur.   

    Muscat de Frontignan Wine VDN French aperitif

    53) Examples of some French Vin doux Naturels: 

    • Muscat de Rivesaltes (white only)
    • Muscat de Frontignan (White only)
    • Muscat de lunel (white only)
    • Muscat de Mireval (white only)
    • Muscat de Saint-Jean-de-Minervois (white only)
    • Maury (Red, White and Rosé)
    • Rivesaltes ( Ambré, Tuilé or Rouge
    • Banyules (Red, White and Rosé)
    • Rasteau  (Red and white)

    **EAU DE VIE: SPIRITS: Single And Double Distilled (Fruit Brandy, Wine Brandy aka Cognac, Whisky, Gin, vodka)

    The French categorize eau de vie is a single or double distilled spirit made from any fruit or grain:

       

    In the middle ages, alchemists attempted to make an “elixir of long life”; a sort of potion or drink that would prolong life or retain youth indefinitely. The result was “eau de vie,” French for water of life from Latin “Aqua Vitae.”  Like Gin, eau de vie was used for medicinal purposes; as a topical and internal antiseptic until the early 20th Century.

    In English-speaking countries, eau de vie refers to distilled spirits made from any fruit other than grapes. This means that Cognac and Brandy, made from grapes, would not be considered an Eau de vie.

    In France, eau de vie is a generic term for any distilled spirits. 

    In France, however, Eau de vie or spirits refer to any fermented or macerated drink that is single or double-distilled made from ANY FRUIT including grapes, grains, plants. Another Litnus test is that eau de vie can be aged, although not all are, and eau de vie is not a liqueur; those are fortified wines.   French eau de vie is colourless, unsweetened with no herbs or spices added to them. Alcohol-wise, French Eau de vie can range anywhere from 20% to 90% proof. 

    The oldest of all eau de vie in France is Armagnac from Gascogne, created in the 15th century by distilling dry white wine. It predates French Brandy from the Brandy region by 150 years. 

    I’ve broken down this eau de vie category into distinct subgroups depending on what it is made with.  I’m using the French definition here and classifying Cognac and brandy under the Eau de Vie category. 

    Here are the categories of Eau de Vie in France. 

    • Fruit Brandy: eau de vie de fruit: prune brandy, pear brandy and cherry brandies are some of the originals in France. 
    • Wine brandy, Wine Cognac, Armagnac: eau de vie de vin: Made from grapes
    • Wheat brandy:eau-de-vie de céréales: Whiskey

    Brandy & cognac (Eau De Vie Made With Grapes)

    Eau de vie de vin: Wine Brandy: Eau de vie made with grapes:

    54) Young Cognacs and Brandy’s (grape brandy)

    Although aged cognacs are generally served as a digestif, young cognac (VS or VSOP) and young brandy’s which lack maturity are best served as an aperitif. 

    As an aperitif, drink your cognacs and brandy on ice, which will water down the alcohol, remember aperitifs should not be strong.

    Cognac and brandy cocktails also make excellent aperitifs, such as Cognac and tonic, Cognac and Canada dry. 

    55) Marc Brandy (Pommace Brandys)

    European vineyards don’t waste a thing, not even the pomace, leftover (grape skins, seeds, and stems) from wine production after the grapes are pressed, which they turn into a pomace brandy, known as marc in both English and French.

    If you’re familiar with Italian grappa or Spanish Orujo, both of which tastes like firewater to me, then you know what I’m talking about. 

    Unlike wine brandy, most pomace brandies like Italian Grappa are neither aged or coloured. If it has been aged, like Marc de Bourgogne, the label will have a specific labelling system based on age; these include the following:

    • Vieille: minimum 4 years
    • Très Vieille: minimum 6 years
    • Hors d’Âge: minimum 10 years

    More than a dozen areas of France produce marc pomace brandy, but the most famous might be Marc de Bourgogne. 

    Fruit Brandy: (Eau de vie made with Fruits other than grapes)

    Eau de vie de fruit: Fruit Brandy: Eau de vie made with fruits

    56) Kirsch (cherry brandy)

    The French call it Kirsche, and the Germans call it “Kirschwässer,” German for “cherry water.”

    Kirsche is an un-aged clear cherry brandy known in France by way of Alsace, which was swapped back and forth between France and Germany for hundreds of years. 

    Kirche is made from double-distilled morello cherries fermented completely, including their seeds or pips, which adds a mild almond taste and flavour.

    As an aperitif, it’s best to drink this French drink chilled before dinner. Kirsch can also be served after dinner at room temperature. Many fondue recipes call for a few teaspoons of Kirsch. 

    Apple & Pear Cidre (Eau de vie, Brandy made with apples or pears)

    French Apple aperitifs from Normandy and Bretagne

    The Normandy region grows over 800 different types of apples and produces three distinct types of ciders: Cidre (traditional French cider), Calvados and Pommeau.

    57) Cidre (apple cider)

    The apples used to make traditional French cider are bittersweet, and have a very low alcohol content, no more than 3-5% .

    Many French cider-makers will carbonate the cider or pasteurize it before bottling, which gives French Cidre a flavour closer to sweet beer than typical American apple cider.

    Cidre comes in a sweeter doux style or a drier brut style and is traditionally served with crepes but also as an aperitif. It’s also the perfect accompaniment to rich stews, chicken, beef, cheese and creamy sauces. 

    58) Poiré (pear cider)

    Poiré is a pear cider made with fermented pears the same way as French apple cider. 

    58) Le Calvados (the Pear or Apple Brandy)

    Calvados brandy from Normandy

    Calvados is from Normandy and is made using a similar process to cognac, resulting in higher alcohol content than traditional Cidre. It can be made with Apples or pears and is aged in oak casks for at least a year. 

    Traditionally Calvados is served after a meal as a digestif but can also be served as an aperitif over ice to awaken your palette.

    In Normandy sometimes it’s served as a palate cleanser in between courses, known locally as “trou Normand” or a Normandy hole.

    FRENCH WHISKEY (Surprisingly Popular Apéritif Drink In France)

    Eau de vie made from grains: French Whisky

    France may be best known for its wine heritage but it may surprise you to learn that France, not the US, UK, Ireland, Scotland or Japan consumes the most whiskey per capita in the world.

    According to statistics, 1 out of 10 people in France claims to enjoy a pre-dinner whiskey as their choice of aperitif. And in terms of sales, Whiskey accounts for 50% of total spirits purchased in France according to the Fédération française des spiritueux. 

    Armorik whiskey from the Warenghemfrom distillery in Lannion in Northern Brittany was created by Henri Warenghem who is considered the pioneer of French whiskey. He created his first batch back in 1919. Today, there are over 90 French whisky distilleries and 60 French Whiskys to choose from and those numbers are growing each year thanks to the number of existing distilleries adding whiskey to their list of alcohol products and distilleries converting to whiskey distilleries.

    The top 7 whiskey distilleries, all located in the western region of France are, Glann Ar Mor, Distillerie des Mehnirs, Distillerie de la Mine d’Or, Naguelann, Distillerie de la Piautre, La Roche aux Fées, and Warenghem.

    whiskey a popular aperitif in France

    Many French whisky distilleries are small businesses that sell locally so you may not be able to find these bottles affordably outside of France. But a handful of bottles are reaching other countries.

    When choosing a whiskey for L’apéro as an aperitif drink, choose one that is light. Heavier or hard whiskeys are best suited for after a meal or with a dessert.

    Here are a few recommended whiskies to try. 

    60) Armorik Whisky (From the pioneer in French Whisky)

    • Amorik: Breizh Whisky, winner of the 2020 world whiskies award for best French blended whiskey. 
    • Amorik: 2019 edition, winner of the best French single malt. 
    • Amorik: 12 years and under, winner of the 2020 world whiskies award for best French single cask single malt

    World whiskies awards

    French Whiskey aperitifs

    61) EDU Whisky (The only buckwheat whiskey in the world)

    Eddu Whiskey is from the Breton area of northern France. The word “Edu” means Buckwheat in the local French dialect of Brittany which makes sense since it’s the only buckwheat whiskey in the world. 

    OTHER EAU DE VIE

    If hard liquor is served as a predinner dink, it is usually served with ice to water it down. Or as an ingredient in a cocktail. 

    62) Gin

    63) Vodka

    Grey goodse is a French vodka brand.

    BEER AND BEER-BASED APERITIFS

    The French are known for their wine but there are regions of France where Beer is more popular or just as popular as wine especially in Northern France regions of Normandy and Bretagne.  But also in Strasbourg and the Alsace regions which border Germany. 

    Panaché a French drink made with beer and lemonade or 7 up

    64)Le panaché

    • Beer
    • Lemonade or (soda, sprite, 7up)

    65) Tango Panaché aka Monaco

    • 15 cl Beer
    • 5 cl Lemonade
    • 2 cl Grenadine

    66) Tango

    • 15 cl beer
    • 2 cl Grenadine

    67) Beer on tap (Bière en Pression)

    68) Bière Brune

    Brown beer

    69) Bière Blanche

    White beer

    **LES PONCHES & COCKTAILS

    Les “Punchs” or “Ponche” are often served in a big self-serve punch bowl at small gatherings and parties in France, especially during the hot summer months. They also make their way on to bar menus and some restaurants. The two most popular are Ti-Punch and Planters punch. 

    70) Ti-Punch

    Ti-punch: a popular French Caribbean drink in France for parties and apero

    Ti’ Punch or Ti-ponch (abbreviated from petit punch) literally meaning “small punch.” 

    Ti punch is originally from French-speaking Caribbean islands such as Martinique, Guadeloupe, Haiti, and French Guiana, but it’s well known throughout France.

    This rum-based cocktail looks similar to the “Caipirinha”, Brazil’s national drink but the Brasilian Caipirinha uses Cachaça, not rum. 

    Recipes vary from person to person but generally, you only need three ingredients to make Ti-punch: Rum, sugar and lime.

    1. 5 cl of Rum: white Agricole rum or amber rum
    2. 1 tsp cane syrup, or 1/2 tsp granulated sugar, some recipes use both.
    3. Juice from a wedge of fresh lime; plus some lime zest. 

    Here is a link to watch how to make one version of ti-punch. 

    71) La Tomate

    Mix a little Pastis with some sweet grenadine syrup, and you have a French cocktail called “the tomato”. You’ll rarely find this on restaurant menus but these two ingredients are often on hand in home bar carts. The sweetness of the grenadine syrup with the licorice pastis sounds strange and does take some getting used . 

    72) Le Mimosa

    Even though the Mimosa was invented at the Riz in Paris by Barman Frank Meier, it’s probably more popular outside of France. No one knows for sure, but it was probably named after the flour of the same name and same yellow colour. 

    73)Boulevardier

    Boulevardier French Cocktail

    Boulevardier is a cocktail that is similar to a Negroni, 

    Both drinks contain sweet vermouth and Campari, but Boulevardier uses whiskey instead of gin as its third ingredient. 

    74) Monkey Gland 

    Monkey Gland is a gin, orange juice, grenadine and absinthe cocktail created in the 1920s by Harry MacElhone, owner of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, France; one of the most famous bars in the world. It’s the same bar where the bloody mary was invented. 

    75) Le Français 75

    Known as simply 75 Cocktail or a soixante-quinze (French for 75), this cocktail contains only four ingredients, gin, champagne, lemon juice and sugar. 

    This potent cocktail was created during WW1 at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris and was nicknamed 75 because it was so strong, it feels like being shot with a French 75mm rifle. 

     A few famous cocktails that were created in France, using French ingrediets, were invented by American, Irish and British. Especially at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris which invented the Bloody Mary, Monkey Gland and Le Français 75.

    76) Mojito

    I know it’s not very French, but it is one of the most popular cocktails in France. 

    77) Apérol Spritz

    Aperol Spritz

    You’ll find this Italian aperitif cocktail on just about every aperitif menu across France. It’s that popular. It’s sweeter and less bitter than Campari, with hints of bitter herbs and burnt orange. It only takes a couple of splashes of apérol to jazz up your coupe de champagne, prosecco or whatever sparkling wine you have on hand. 

    L’abus d’alcool est dangereux pour la santé. A consommer avec modération.

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