Why modern-day drinkers are embracing aperitifs
The global vermouth market is predicted to grow to be worth $15.7 billion by 2027, up from $8.7 billion in 2019.
Aperitifs are bringing their A-game and winning with modern drinkers.
Whether it’s sipping champagne in northern France, stirring up a classic Negroni, or one of the 1.5 million Instagram posts tagged #aperolspritz, the humble aperitif has long been an integral part of the way we drink. Yet for many it’s an unsung hero – more likely to be associated with Grandma’s sherry cabinet than an intimate gathering among friends.
We’ve always seen the category as packed with potential – and that’s not just because we enjoy a Negroni. So we’re pleased to see a shift in the market as both classic and contemporary brands give the category the attention it deserves, making the most of emerging trends in the way people drink.
A New Moment for Aperitifs
Before we dive into how and why the category is thriving, let’s first break down the basics. An aperitif (or apéritif as the French would say) is a traditionally alcoholic drink served before a meal to stimulate the appetite – the word literally comes from the Latin “aperire” which means “to open.” The type of drink varies by location, from Pastis in France to Ouzo in Greece, but will traditionally have a low ABV so it’s not too filling and a dry, more bitter taste to keep a sweet tooth at bay.
If you’re not familiar with the apero ritual then you’ve probably tried a traditional aperitif in cocktail form. With its aromatic flavor profile, vermouth has long been a staple for cocktail bartenders and is the key ingredient in classics like the Martini and Negroni. But aperitifs like vermouth are starting to take over longer serves too. In fact, according to Grand View Research, the global vermouth market will be worth $15.7 billion by 2027, up from $8.7 billion in 2019.
Across the globe, sales of aperitifs are growing rapidly. This is good news for key players like Martini, Aperol and Campari, but also for contemporary, craft brands like Ghia, Haus and El Bandarra – who are brightening our palettes and our Instagram feeds, reinterpreting the traditional aperitif for modern-day drinkers.
While gin and tonic continues to reign supreme, particularly across Europe, more and more people are looking for ways to bring unexpected flavour and creative flair to standard long serves.
In its latest campaign, popular Italian aperitif Campari positions itself as the go-to gin replacement, but it seems our old friend vermouth also delivers when it comes to experimental tastes.
Gin’s bitter taste can be quite divisive (one of the reasons it’s yet to conquer the US). Whereas vermouth is made using a variety of herbs, barks, roots and spices so its profile can vary from sweet to dry. This makes it a more appealing choice for a broader range of palates, but also no strict ingredient list leaves a lot of room for creativity. Hotel Starlino uses botanicals like wormwood, coriander and cloves to create its unique flavour profiles, appealing to those with a more curious palette.
While spirits like gin or vodka typically come in around 40% ABV, most aperitifs are between 15-20%, if not lower – after all they’re supposed to whet our appetites, not overwhelm them. This makes them an ideal choice for a generation of moderate drinkers who seek taste over intoxication, as well as those looking to forgo alcohol in favour of health and wellness.
Lower in ABV means lower in calories, and with aperitifs traditionally avoiding sweet, sugary ingredients they come in on the healthier end of the alcohol spectrum.
But it’s not all about alcohol content. Nearly 40% of global consumers want to decrease their alcohol consumption. A golden opportunity for brands like Ghia, Everleaf and Aecorn who are disrupting the category with their takes on alcohol-free aperitifs, reaching a growing audience of sober-curious drinkers who don’t want to miss out on the social aspect of drinking.
We may be drinking less but craft beer and spirit companies continue to surge in popularity as today’s drinkers seek quality over quantity – and it’s no different for aperitifs. While Martini, the most well-known vermouth brand, reports a decline in sales, the category continues to grow thanks to smaller, more independent brands.
With craft products there’s really an opportunity to, well, craft a brand story – something that’s key for an audience of consumers looking for meaning and value when making a purchase. While vermouth brands can weave stories about secret recipes or, like Kiss My Drinks, hone in on homegrown botanicals, other drinks like Haus speak to the social narrative surrounding the traditional aperitif moment.
Smaller craft brands are also bringing sustainability into the mix. Discarded makes its vermouth using the fruit that’s tossed aside during coffee bean harvesting, while sustainably-sourced Everleaf comes from the brain of a conservation biologist with a passion for bartending.
A big part of aperitifs is the drinking ritual that surrounds them. It’s a social experience, a drink to be enjoyed among friends, before sitting down for a dinner or gathering.
Even before it became government-mandated, more and more people were entertaining from home. Recent years have seen a rise in at-home cooking and cocktail-making kits, and the aperitif ritual slots perfectly into our home-body lifestyle, catering to intimate gatherings over busy bars and big parties.
We’re placing more and more value on social experience and human connection. As Helena Price Hambrecht puts it, “Today’s drinker wants something more relaxed, so drinking culture can return to its roots as a means of connecting.” That’s why she created Haus, an aperitif made for “how we gather today” with a strong focus on social ties and modern-day get togethers.
Opening up for Aperitifs
With stay-home gatherings not only our preferred method of socializing, but the only way of hanging out for the foreseeable future, consumers want to create new drinking rituals without relying on a trip to the bar.
With so much variety across a single category, aperitifs serve a solid solution to our changing habits, offering delicious new ways of drinking and staying right on track to hit that projected growth.