Aperitif by Kate Hawkings (Book Review)

by Sam Bilton on June 2, 2018 No comments

If, like me, you are of a ‘certain age’ you will no doubt recall the adverts for Cinzano where the hapless Leonard Rossiter spills the icy beverage down the cleavage of the unerringly glamorous Joan Collins. Or chirpy cockney gal Lorraine Chase fresh from Luton Airport requesting a Campari & lemonade. Even to my young eyes these grown up drinks were tinged with farce which made them hard to take seriously let alone be classed as sophisticated. Cinzano and lemonade was probably my first alcoholic drink but it was quickly ditched in favour of Snakebite once I hit college and then wine in it’s various guises when I started earning my own dosh. Aperitifs as such have never featured on my radar – until now.

What is the essence of the book?

The word ‘aperitif’ stems from the latin aperire meaning to open and this book has certainly opened my eyes to the hitherto neglected practice of taking a proper aperitif before dinner. As the sub title aptly suggests this is indeed a ‘spirited guide to the drinks, history and culture of the aperitif’. Whether you want to know more about the origins of vermouth or how to mix the perfect martini, you’ll find it here in this book.

About the author

Kate Hawkings has a monthly drinks column in Olive magazine and has written on food, travel and interiors for publications including the Guardian, Independent, Telegraph, Sunday Times and Elle Deco. Kate is a restaurant and wine consultant and runs Bellita restaurant in Bristol.

Who will like it?

If you fancy yourself as a bit of a mixologist and would like to know more about the story behind some of the classic drinks combos this is a book for you. It’s also a great place to start for some pre dinner inspiration if you’re fed up with G&T or a glass of fizz.

Who won’t like it?

If you’re hoping for oodles of drink recipes using obscure liqueurs akin to the Savoy cocktail book then this may fall short of expectations. Personally, I think 30 recipes is just right but I’m sure there will be few people who would have liked to see more.

It goes without saying that teetotallers should steer clear. 

What do I like about the book?

Like many of the libations Kate has written about this is books goes down very easily. Yes, it’s informative and perhaps you’re not itching to know how or when Campari was invented. Truth be told neither was I until I opened this book (although it was the H-word in the sub title that initially drew me to it). Kate’s energy and enthusiasm for her subject is captivating. This is a veritable romp through the world of aperitifs and Kate is the ideal drinking partner to lead you through it (or perhaps even astray…). You could skip straight to the recipes but frankly you’d be missing the point (and the best bits) of the whole publication.

When it comes to the recipes I applaud their straightforward approach which is often lacking in modern cocktail concoctions with their wacky monikers (as the author notes “cocktails are damaging on the pocket and one’s liver; we now see a trend towards lighter drinking and this is where aperitifs really come into their own.”). No it doesn’t reinvent the wheel but then it’s not trying to.

Is there anything I’m not so keen on?

Not that I can think of. Even if there were I’m sure with and Gin & It in one hand and this book in the other I’d soon forget what it was…

Would I cook from it?

It’s clearly not a cookbook but I do have a batch of rose petal vodka infusing as I write. I’ve definitely got my eye on The First of the Summer Wine recipe for the summer.

Where can you buy it?

Aperitif: A Spirited Guide to the Drinks, History and Culture of the Aperitif by Kate Hawkings (Amazon, £16.99)


Sam BiltonAperitif by Kate Hawkings (Book Review)

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