Difference Between Digestifs & Apéritifs

If sipping on sherry or dry vermouth before a meal, without getting in an inebriated state is your thing, you already are familiar with apéritifs.

‘But is there any difference between digestifs & apéritif, it almost always seems like a confusing puzzle!’

Does this statement sound like you?

We are here to break down this puzzle, so, without further ado let’s get started.

Beginning With The Basics

Both apéritifs and digestifs are typically alcobevs, served before and after a meal.

Apéritif, derived from the Medieval Latin ‘aperire’ which literally means “to open”. This light alcobev is believed to stimulate the appetite.

Since they are served before a meal, they are typically very dry, which indicates they are very low in sugar, because well, you wouldn’t want to be in the inebriated state through the dinner.

Simply put, this well-kept secret of Europe is quickly catching up as a part of day drinking culture too.
Dry champagne, sherry, vermouth, ouzo are commonly consumed types of apéritifs. It is the bitter category which takes the cake by being a popular choice, leaving the taste buds fired up.

Digestifs, on the other hand, as the name suggests are served after a meal to aid in digestion.

They are consumed neat and are generally high on alcohol content as compared to the pre-meal counterpart.

The types of drinks served post-dinner vary according to cultures and countries.

Fortified wines, brandy (Cognac & Armagnac) and liqueurs (both bitter & sweet) qualify in the list of apéritifs. Bitter digestifs contain carminative herbs such as anise, peppermint, fennel, cinnamon etc which aid in digestion.

In European culture both the drinks play a major role to unwind and put the brakes on for an entertaining and wholesome dining experience.


Originally apéritifs were used for medicinal purposes early in the 16th century when the liquor based portions were infused with a blend of additives such as herbs, roots and spices. It was introduced in France in 1846 as bitter medicine, however, the ‘preventive bitter medicine’, gradually became a commonly consumed pre-meal drink.

By the 19th century, apéritifs became widely popular in Italy, and by 1900 they were commonly served in America.


Much like their pre-meal counterpart, digestifs too have a history which goes back to centuries. With the carminative herbs to aid in the release of digestive juices, digestifs popularly found a way to the dinner tables during the 18th century.

How Are They Made?

Both apéritifs and digestifs have been commercially made for about two centuries across Europe. There is no fixed general production method or a secret recipe for making these alcobevs, the processes differ according to diverse cultures and countries.

How Do You Drink Them?

Most apéritifs are consumed straight up.

While bitter liqueurs & dry vermouth are served on the rocks, fortified wines are best served chilled. Ouzo & pastis are intensely anise flavoured which makes it best to pair these with water.

While most digestifs are served chilled or at room temperature, cognac & wine are sipped and some like limoncello can also be taken as shots.

Let’s conclude by saying that both alcobevs serve the delicious purpose as pre and post meal drinks, however, it is advised to not beat the purpose by getting carried away, and getting drunk on them!

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