Vintage Cellars

Best of 2023: Aperitifs and Liqueurs

What’s the difference between an aperitif and liqueur? Here’s what you need to know, plus easy ways to make the most of our judges’ favourites.


Taken from the Latin aperire, meaning ‘to open,’ an aperitif is something you drink to kick things off. It’s crafted to stimulate the appetite and is typically dry, bitter and relatively low in alcohol – as too much sugar and alcohol can dull the palate early in the game. “The aperitif category is booming in Australia and is rooted in the tradition of enjoying an afternoon snack with a light drink and good company,” says judge Matthew Linklater, brand ambassador for Campari. The best way to drink an aperitif? Matthew says: “You can never go past a spritz – three parts prosecco, two parts bitter aperitif, one part soda.” 

Like aperitifs, liqueurs have their origins in Europe, more specifically in the Middle Ages, when monks began infusing herbs in spirits for medicinal use. These days liqueurs are flavoured with everything from nuts, fruit, coffee and spices like cinnamon and vanilla. Rich, indulgent and often sweet, they’re ideal for sipping neat or on ice as a digestif at the end of your night. Or lighten them up by mixing them into a cocktail, such as the hugely popular amaretto sour and limoncello spritz.

Winner – Aperitifs: Campari

Campari founder Gaspare Campari spent two decades experimenting with herbs, roots and spices to create his secret recipe for this iconic Italian aperitif launched in 1860. The result? “Big, bold flavours, the perfect balance of bittersweet,” comments judge Jamie Fairlie of Four Pillars Gin. Deliciously complex with intense notes of orange and a floral citrus aroma, Campari makes for a flawless pre-dinner Negroni – pour over ice with equal parts gin and red vermouth, then garnish with a wedge of orange.


Finalist: Aperol

Synonymous with a spritz, Aperol has intense bursts of bittersweet orange, rounded out by enticing flavours of gentian, rhubarb and cinchona. Serve it chilled and pair with tomato and mozzarella pizzette or a platter of fresh prawns.

Winner – Coffee Liqueur: El Sueno Coffee Liqueur

With tequila so hot right now, it’s no surprise that tequila-based coffee liqueurs dominated this category, with El Sueno Coffee Liqueur taking first place. “A well-balanced coffee liqueur with slight toffee flavours, but not too sweet,” comments judge Dave Irwin, Patient Wolf Gin’s founder and distiller. Mix an espresso martini (or coffee margarita) and match with anything chocolatey – think tiramisu, cheesecake and brownies.


Finalist: VIVIR Café 

Judges enjoyed the rich coffee flavour and smooth agave finish of Vivir Café. Sip on ice, or pour on vanilla ice cream for a luxurious affogato.

Winner – Limoncello: Ambra Limoncello

Handcrafted with locally sourced South Australian lemons, Ambra Limoncello has “a well-balanced sweetness and a nice finish,” according to judge David Irwin. “A beautiful harmony between lemon oil, zest, base spirit and sugar,” adds judge Matthew Linklater. Serve these sculptural bottle chilled, straight from the fridge as an Italian-style digestif at the end of your meal.


Finalist: Swan River Limoncello

Zingy, decadent and brimming with lemon sorbet flavours, Western Australia’s Swan River Limoncello is made to a traditional style. Top with prosecco or soda for a refreshing aperitif.

Winner – Flavoured Liqueur: Baileys Australian Rivermint Chocolate Liqueur

“A fantastic expression of Baileys,” says judge Matthew Linklater on this decadent liquid dessert that melds native mint and chocolate with velvety Irish cream. “The fine silky texture of the cream with just enough rivermint would make this a guilty pleasure,” adds judge James Fairlie. Pour over a scoop of mint chocolate ice cream for extra indulgence!


Finalist: Grand Marnier

A premium orange liqueur made with fine French cognac, the essence of bitter orange and sugar, Grand Marnier got the nod from the judges for its versatility. Sip it neat to savour the complex flavours, drizzle on soufflés and recipes such as crepes suzette, or combine with cognac and fresh lemon for a grand sidecar cocktail.


Products featured are available from 06/09/23 to 10/10/23, while stocks last. Some products or varieties featured may not be available in all stores.