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Taste of the Month: Bon Apéritifs & Sweet Endings

by on November 29, 2017 2:11 PM

It’s that time of year when friends and family gather around a table to give thanks and to share in the end-of-year festivities. There are different traditions and favorite dishes that make up the main course and its accompanying sides. However, while everyone is fussing over the turkey or the ham, guests sometimes forget to save room for dessert. And while we are at it, why not begin the fun with an aperitif or two to excite the taste buds?

From James Bond’s shaken, not stirred vodka martini to sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist that reminds Rita of Rome in the film Groundhog Day, aperitifs have appeared in movies, but have only recently played a starring role in the American food culture. The word apéritif (in French) or aperitivo (in Italian) shares etymology with the English word aperture, or opening. For that reason, an aperitif is an appetite-stimulating cocktail served to mingling guests before the much anticipated holiday meal or dinner party.

The pre-meal drinks are especially popular in France and Italy where they have been made for centuries dating back to the Middle Ages. Modern aperitifs were most likely born out of medicinal spirits created in the 16th century by infusing liquor with a blend of herbs, spices, and roots believed to cure all kinds of ills. In 1846, Parisian chemist and wine merchant Joseph Dubonnet created a formula to make quinine more palatable for soldiers fighting off malaria in North Africa. Dubonnet is still a commonly-used ingredient in cocktail bars around the world.

Many aperitifs have a bitter component to them, although they don’t necessarily need that; they tend to be dry cocktails that are not too sweet or creamy. The best aperitifs include gin, vermouth, dry wines, bitters, or distilled spirits like Campari and Aperol.

Although we toast to the French and Italians for pioneering the tradition of aperitifs, here in the United States, the aperitif is making a comeback with the resurgence of classic concoctions such as the Manhattan, which combines rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters, and the Negroni made with gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth.

The opposite of an aperitif is a digestif, which is typically served at the end of a meal. It is essentially a dessert cocktail. Like the word suggests, the drink aids in digestion and typically, it can be on the sweeter side and can even replace dessert altogether.

Of course, no holiday dinner is complete without a stunning sweet finish like icing on the cake! From fruitcake to rum cake, cookies, tarts and pies, the staff of Barash Media gathered a few of our favorite aperitifs and desserts to share with our readers this holiday season.


Rum Cake

By Willis Peachey

(Cody Peachey’s father)


1 box yellow cake mix

2 French vanilla Jello pudding mix

4 large eggs

½ cup of oil

½ cup of water

½ cup of Bacardi Gold rum

1 cup of chopped pecans and walnuts


Mix together on medium speed for 2 minutes. Grease Bundt pan, do not flour. Add nuts in the bottom of Bundt pan. Pour batter in on top of the nuts and bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.



1 stick of butter (melted)

1 cup of sugar

1/8 cup water

½ cup of Bacardi Gold rum


In sauce pan, melt butter and stir in sugar. Add water a little at a time until sugar is dissolved.


After glazing liquid has cooled, add rum. Prick cake with large fork. Pour glaze over cake.


Cranberry Pecan Tart

By Aimee Aiello



1 1/3 cups flour

½ tsp. salt

½ cup Crisco shortening

3-4 tbsp. cold water



3 eggs

2/3 cup brown sugar

½ cup corn syrup

¼ cup butter (melted and cooled)

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup pecans

1½ cups chopped fresh cranberries


Combine flour and salt. Cut in the Crisco with a pastry blender until flour is in crumbly pea-sized pieces. Sprinkle with water, 1 tbsp. at a time, until dough forms a ball. Roll dough out to fit a tart pan.


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line crust with foil and add pie weights or dried beans. Bake 10 minutes, then remove pie weights and let cool 15 minutes. Reduce oven to 350 degrees.


Whisk eggs in a medium bowl. Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt, vanilla extract. Fold in pecans and cranberries. Pour into crust. Cover with foil and bake 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 20 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.


Coffee Cake Cookie

By Sean Yoder


1 pkg. dry yeast

¼ cup lukewarm water

1 tsp. salt

¼ cup sugar

1 cup shortening

4 cups flour

1 cup milk

2 eggs

1 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon


Put flour, salt, and sugar in bowl. Cut in shortening. Dissolve yeast in water. Scald milk and cool. Combine eggs with milk. Add yeast. Add liquid to flour. Mix lightly until flour is moist. Do not knead. Refrigerate overnight. Divide dough in half. Roll out like cinnamon rolls. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle on rolled out dough. Roll up and cut in 5/8 inch slices. Place on cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Yield: 4 dozen.



4 tbsp. butter

1½ cup powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Melt and brown butter. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Blend with hot water until icing can be spread.


Fruit Cake

By Becky Bernhard

(Lana Bernhard’s grandmother)


1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

1 cup canola oil

2 eggs

¾ cup orange juice

¾ boiling water

2 tsp. baking soda

1 cup flour

1 2/3 cups raisins

2 cups dates (cut up)

2 cups mixed candied fruit

1 cup pecans (broken)


In a large bowl, cream brown sugar, white sugar, and canola oil. Add eggs, orange juice, boiling water and baking soda.


In a separate bowl, mix with flour, raisins, dates, mixed candied fruit, and pecans. Add to above cake mixture and mix well. Put all into greased and floured Bundt pan. Put Bundt pan in a separate baking pan filled with some water at 275 degrees for 2½ hours.


Hot Mulled Apple Cider

By Debbie Markel


1 orange (sliced)

1 lemon (sliced)

1 quart apple cider (Way Fruit Farm)

1 (12-oz) bottle of hard-pressed cider (Happy Valley Vineyard & Winery)

½ tbsp. whole cloves

1 tbsp. cinnamon (

½ tsp. allspice (optional)

Cinnamon sticks


Heat apple cider, cinnamon sticks, orange and lemon slices, cinnamon powder, and cloves to a boil over high heat for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add hard-pressed cider and heat through. Do not boil. Pour cider through strainer and remove spices and fruit slices. Serve while hot.



By Mark Brackenbury


2.5 ounces Stoli Vanil (or another vanilla vodka)

1 ounce (green) creme de menthe

½ ounce white (clear) creme de cacao

Garnish: maraschino cherry


Mix in a cocktail shaker with cracked ice, pour into a martini glass, and drop a maraschino cherry in.


The Mandarin Revolver

By Vilma Shu Danz


2 ounces bourbon

½ ounce coffee liqueur

2 dashes orange bitters

1 ounce of mandarin orange kombucha (store-bought GT brand Original kombucha with a splash of orange juice is a good substitute if you don’t brew your own)

Garnish: wide strip of orange zest


Combine bourbon, coffee liqueur, orange bitters, and kombucha in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir well until chilled, about 30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Twist orange peel to express oils over drink and use as garnish.

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