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Cocktails, food, atmosphere and company – surefire ingredients for a great night out. To create a truly special event takes an extra level of attention to these factors, and the knowledge of how to pick them in concert to create the delicate interplay prized by partygoers. These sorts of choices in the planning stage can pass beneath the notice of a casual observer, but they make all the difference between a run-of-the-mill function and an evening that your guests will remember for years.

Bon Aperitif?
For cocktails specifically, the selection you offer at your party can change the complexion of the evening and even affect how your guests enjoy any eventual meal. Aperitifs, or before-dinner-cocktails, are key to helping guests manage their palate at the start of the evening. Their often-bitter makeup gently awakens the appetite, and a lower alcohol content keeps the drinker in good shape for what may prove to be a long night out. Enjoyed throughout history, here are a few of the aperitif recipes which have risen to the top of Melbourne’s Best Venues drinks list:

Negroni
The quintessential modern aperitif, the understated Negroni finds its way gracefully into any party setting and has all the right properties for a before-dinner cocktail. As a vehicle for Campari, itself a classic Italian aperitif, it offers strong flavour to enjoy while the gin and vermouth quiet Campari’s bitterer aspects.

Tres Jolie
This aperitif is an intriguing mix of standard and unusual aperitif ingredients, with the complexity to charm the palate of a seasoned partygoer. The recipe marries the orange of Cointreau and bitters to vermouth, adding a unique touch of the aromatised wine Dubonnet. Layered with quinine and herbs, it sets this cocktail apart from the pack.

Autumn Leaf
Every truly great party has an element of showmanship and visual flair, and the same is true of this exquisite party cocktail. Stun your guests as you bring out trays of these delicate layered drinks, comprised of pisco, Drambuie, Campari and a touch of lime. And don’t let the name fool you – these are fantastic cocktails any time of year!

Aperol Spritzer
Introducing another of the most common liquors used as a foundation for these dry, bitter drinks is the Aperol Spritzer. Continuing the citrus theme common among aperitifs, Aperol’s flavour is a bitter orange. It is considered gentler than Campari and, accompanied here by a simple slice of lemon, is a great introduction to the genre.

Martini
Opening with the Negroni, we close this shortlist with the other timeless aperitif choice – the Martini. The classic Martini, a dry mix of gin and vermouth, is already a safe option for your party opener. The drink is also highly customisable, although the sweeter derivatives may be less suitable for the aperitif purpose.