Aperitifs, digestifs enhance meals at Sable in River North

There are a couple of ways to both prime yourself for a great meal, as well as help digest it.
January 3, 2014 1:20:29 PM PST
The holiday season is full of special meals with friends and family, and there are a couple of ways to both prime yourself for a great meal, as well as help digest it.

The answer lies in a European tradition.

There's nothing worse than that feeling you have after a big meal, but unlike some parts of Europe - which would recommend schnapps - try a bitter digestif instead. And while we're at it, to get your system ready for a big meal, try sipping an aperitif beforehand. Your enjoyment of the meal will be greatly enhanced.

Mike Ryan doesn't get a lot of customers asking for an Aperol Spritz before a meal at Sable, inside the Palomar Hotel in River North, unless of course, they're European. He says the tradition of an aperitif before a meal is somehow lost in this country.

"The idea of aperitif is something that's going to whet the appetite; something that will prepare your palate and your system for the act of ingestion for the greater enjoyment of the meal," said Ryan, the bartender at Sable.

That means Lillet or Campari or even vermouth; sometimes Cocchi Americano, topped off with some sparkling Italian prosecco, for a light, refreshing launching pad.

Then there are the digestifs, typically bitter and often from Italy in the form of Amaro.

"A digestif is something that you would have at the end of the meal; something that will alleviate the symptoms of overindulgence and provide a satisfactory conclusion to the meal," said Ryan. "Something like a Negroni, which is a fantastic before dinner drink and after dinner cocktail, it's gonna have a bit of sweetness, but also a bit of bitterness, and that bitter element is really key to aperitifs and digestifs."

Combining Amaro, Campari and gin, then stirring with draft ice cubes for slow dilution, Ryan strains it and pours the Negroni over a large ice cube that consumes most of the glass. A strip of orange zest adds a citrus twist to this bitter refresher. Like a lot of local spirits professionals, Ryan wishes the desire for aperitifs and digestifs would take off.

"The idea of using what you're drinking to prepare yourself to have a great meal or to conclude your meal is something that we have only really approached very obliquely," he said.

Sable Kitchen and Bar
505 N. State St.