In the first of his weekly columns, William Hanson, British etiquette expert and consultant in etiquette and protocol for The English Manner, charts the choppy waters of pre-dinner drinks
A is for Aperitifs
Pre-dinner drinks (correctly called aperitifs) are a good way to kick off any form of social contact and conversation, whether for guests who have not met before, or old friends and they enable people to slide in and out of a few conversations before they are seated.
The nature of aperitifs know that they are lighter-bodied, higher acid whets the appetite and prepares the body for food. Since aperitifs are typically a transition to another activity (dinner, taxi to the show), stick to small glasses to both keep things moving and regulate intake as without accompanying munchettes (never nibbles), oversized aperitifs go straight to the head! This may be at odds with the current drinking culture of more is more, but stay strong and focus on quality not quantity.
When looking for clues of what to serve, remember the five Ms of imbibement: Mood, Manner, Menu, Month and Map. These variables will help you to dial-in the most appropriate drink. For instance, you may be in the mood for something warming after a snowy Friday, but a pre-theatre affair dictates something more civilised than tequila shooters.
A timeless favourite is that Spanish classic: a pale, dry Amontillado sherry. Dry sherry is always an elegant and less than ordinary choice. Other can’t-miss aperitifs include Champagne (although becoming somewhat predictable) and dry sparklers as well as crisp, minerally whites like Grüner Veltliner and Albariño.
William Hanson the Etiquette and Protocol Consultant for The English Manner. He works with VIP households, diplomats, businessmen, schools and colleges and has advised multi-national brands. He is regularly asked by global media to comment on modern manners and social mores.