Drinks

Art of the Apéritif

How to pre-game like the French
Vermouth service at Bacchanal
Vermouth stays cool with frozen grapes at Bacchanal.

There are no hard rules when it comes to the apéritif, that first drink of the evening that gently unwinds you before the business of sitting down to dinner.

But in France, the drink is light and refreshing, and maybe it sparkles with a splash of champagne. Ideally, it has a twinge of acidity or bitterness to get your appetite going. And it should be fairly low in alcohol! The point is not to be obliterated with liquor: The apéritif slowly takes the edge off a hard day. It's all very civilized.

You could meet all these requirements at home with a glass of wine or dry sherry, but at the newly opened Bacchanal on the Bowery, Australian bartender Naren Young is peddling some more exciting things with a dedicated apéritif menu.

Bacchanal's refreshing white wine and verjus cocktail with grape ice

"There was a time in New York when you walked into a bar and everyone was doing something stirred and brown," says Young, "but there's been such a big trend in low-alcohol cocktails, which is a much more elegant way to start the evening."

The most perfect apéritif on his menu is ice-cold vermouth poured straight from a tap ($6). A bit of Perrier adds fizz and a handful of frozen green grapes keeps the dry Noilly Prat cold without diluting it.

If you're taking things nice and slow, the grapes soften up so you can snack on them at the end. Then you should probably order another one of these cheap, beautiful and totally unfussy cocktails; in the time it takes for the sun to set, you can put away several without getting sloppy.

Bacchanal 146 Bowery New York NY 10013 646-355-1840

Around the Web

Get the Tasting Table newsletter for adventurous eaters everywhere