Apéritifs in NYC: Where to drink like a European

You don’t have to fly across the Atlantic to drink like you’re in Milan or Paris.

The apéritif, a light alcoholic drink meant to stimulate your appetite — think Lillet, Aperol, Campari and even vermouth — has become an increasingly common fixture on New York City cocktail menus in the last decade. These dry, aromatic and bittersweet drinks are a staple of post-work gatherings in Europe and, let’s be honest, they’re a decidedly more civilized way to enjoy happy hour than dollar beers or well liquor specials. The French word apèritif (the Italians call it aperitivo) derives from the Latin for “to open,” and in this case it refers to the drinker’s appetite. It connotes a time of day — a pre-dinner gathering with friends and snacks — almost as much as type of alcohol.

“I think it’s just a great way to not end your day, but to start your night,” said Rachel Allswang, co-owner of Le Garage in Bushwick.

So whether you’re looking for a classic experience like an Aperol spritz served with a spread of Italian appetizers, or an American twist that incorporates apéritif liqueurs into complex cocktails, here are five bars and restaurants where you can class up your late afternoon imbibing.