Smooth Starters

Mastering the art of the apéritif

The apéritif: a time-honored European tradition of sipping a light, refreshing drink–chilled or on the rocks with a splash of soda and a citrus wedge–at the start of a meal.

Make it your own with these three apéritif wines, each new to the Chicago scene.

Moscato d'Asti-based Cocchi Americano has been made for over a century, but didn't hit American shores until this spring. Mixologists are rhapsodic about the cocktail potential of this fortified wine, but in Italy it rarely gets more complicated than Cocchi, soda, ice and an orange twist. Find it at Lush Roscoe ($23) and The Whistler

Sonoma winemaker Carl Sutton's new Sutton Cellars Brown Label vermouth is bone-dry, lightly bitter and redolent of orange and spice. Sip it chilled or with soda and lime. Find it at Lush Wine & Spirits ($19)

At The Elysian hotel's Balsan and Ria, white port is served chilled in a port glass ($5), but you can request it the way it's drunk in Portugal: on the rocks, with soda and a slice of lemon. It's fruitier and bigger-bodied than vermouth, but lighter than its tawny and ruby siblings. Find it at Binny's ($12)