An aperitif is an alcoholic drink meant to stimulate the appetite before a meal. They're served in small amounts, often in a cordial glass. Champagne can be an aperitif and certain liquors are considered classic aperitifs like Dubonnet, Campari and vermouth.

Other aperitifs are made by combining several ingredients and allowing them to meld together over days or months, and then to be served chilled or over ice. In Georgeanne Brennan's cookbook, "La Vie Rustic," she has recipes for two aperitifs that are simple to make and will be light and refreshing pre-meal tipples for spring and summer dinners.

Vin de citron is a lemon-flavored aperitif that's ready to serve in four days, while vin d'orange is flavored with your choice of oranges. It takes a little more work to put together, and takes several months for the flavors to combine.

Vin de Citron

Makes 1 (approximately 950 ml) bottle

Ingredients

  • 2 organic lemons
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle dry or fruity white wine, such as sauvignon blanc
  • 3/4 cup eau de vie or vodka
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces/125 grams) sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Directions

  1. Using a citrus zester, zest the 2 lemons in long peels.
  2. Cut one lemon into quarters. Reserve the other lemon for another use.
  3. Combine the wine, eau de vie, sugar, vanilla bean, lemon peels and lemon quarters in a dry, sterilized jar with a lid. Seal the jar and store in a cool, dark place for four days, stirring daily to dissolve the sugar.
  4. Line a fine-mesh sieve with cheesecloth. Strain the wine, discarding the solids. Pour the wine into a dry, sterilized bottle, seal closed, and store in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator for up to six months.

vin de citron vin d'orange Homemade vin de citron and vin d'orange from "La Vie Rustic." (Photo: Sara Remington)

Vin d'Orange

Ingredients

  • 6 small or 4 large organic oranges (Brennan suggests Seville, naval or blood oranges)
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle dry or fruity white wine, rosé or red wine
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup eau de vie or vodka

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 F (150 C). Using a citrus zester, zest the oranges, including some pith, in long peels. Spread the peels on a baking sheet and bake, turning occasionally, until the pith is golden and the skin is dark orange, about 45 minutes.
  2. Combine the wine, sugar, eau de vie, and toasted peels in a dry, sterilized jar with a lid.
  3. Seal the jar and store in a cool, dark place, turning it several times until the sugar dissolves, about one week.
  4. Continue to store for at least one month or preferably 2-3 months.
  5. Line a fine-mesh sieve with cheesecloth and strain the wine, discarding the peels.
  6. Pour into a dry, sterilized bottle, seal closed, and store in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator for up to one year.

I have a small collection of vintage cordial glasses that I've bought at yard sales and they will definitely be filled with these aperitifs this spring and summer.

"La Vie Rustic" is a cookbook inspired by the author's life in Provence with recipes that are driven by the seasons. It also contains a few stories about Brennan's personal experiences in the South of France plus tips about creating a sustainable life.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.