A stiff drink can be a beautiful, to-the-point thing. Not every occasion, though, calls for two fingers of whiskey (times four) and a faint memory of early morning pizza.
Enter the apéritif.
While technically considered an opener cocktail, "apéritif" is really just an elegant way of saying "low alcohol." Often wine or liqueur-based, low-alcohol drinks contain 1/4 ounce or less of strong spirits (i.e. those above 40 percent alcohol by volume). They can take the form of spritzers, like the rosé- and Aperol-based Rivington Punch, or classic stirred drinks, like the vermouth-laced Old Hickory, which has all of the depth of a whiskey-based cocktail without the hangover. You'll find those and four more recipes in the following slideshow.
So while these drinks all know how to kick off a meal, they're more than openers. Think of them instead as the as your cocktail wingmen—the drinks to help you navigate long nights (or long summer days), wits intact.