Food & Drink | April 15, 2022 7:30 am

The Secret Joys of the Aperitif

Veso founder ​​Chris Beyer has created a more approachable way to take your cocktail to the next level

Veso Apertif
Veso Apertif
JADE HANG

Veso founder ​​Chris Beyer cites shopping at his local co-op, Rainbow Grocery in the Mission, as part of the impetus for starting his own aperitif company. “I actually went to Rainbow Grocery to pick up spices years ago when I first started testing my own aperitif recipes,” Beyer told InsideHook. “They have huge jars of every type of spice and botanical you could need. Rainbow has a crazy selection of fruits, vegetables, herbs, teas and every other type of food you can imagine.” 

Historically more popular in European culture than America, aperitifs are experiencing a boom in a post-pandemic world as a more deliberate, communal way of sharing a drink. Getting into European aperitifs in a big way just before the pandemic, Beyer remembers being drawn to this style of drinking because he was losing interest in mindless drinking at bars. “I started to increasingly notice that I wasn’t enjoying going out to the usual bars with friends to drink with no purpose,” he said. “I started gravitating towards more intentional experiences involving alcohol, like supper clubs, visiting wineries, hosting sunset picnics.”

Burned out on a tech job that, he says, lacked any meaningful connection to his life, Beyer initially quit his job in 2019 with the idea of taking a year off to travel and explore aperitif culture in Europe. Of course, the pandemic threw a wrench in his travel plans, and instead, he started diving into ideas for an accessible aperitif brand. One way he finessed the transition is by easing people into the world of aperitifs — which are often super bitter, herbal or funky — and keeping the Veso flavors more approachable and far less bitter. 

Inspired by his father’s tradition of making wine for the family at home and “the beauty of European aperitifs,” Beyer wanted to make his own beverage in a way that “appealed to a modern American drinker’s palate.” As a wine-based aperitif, every small batch of Veso begins with alcohol that comes from the fermentation of grapes, with white wine as the base, and then gets a boost in booziness from added grape spirits during the infusion process. Other elements like spices, herbs, and organic fruits are added later to create the two flavors of Veso currently on the market: Strawberry Solstice and Vanilla Nightfall. 

Strawberry Solstice is the fruitier, lighter option of the two flavors: Drink this if you like Aperol spritzes, rosé wine, or fruity cocktails. Vanilla Nightfall, on the other hand, is spicy, richer and bolder: Drink this if you like whiskey, Manhattans, spiced cider, Negronis, Old Fashioneds, or anything with bitters. With either flavor, it’s the process of sitting and sipping something that’s made from natural ingredients, and with intention, that separates it from chugging a vodka soda or sucking down another White Claw.

“I think the Europeans have the culture right,” Beyere said. “When I think of idyllic drinking experiences, I imagine myself at a bistro table on the sidewalk in an Italian village, overlooking a vineyard or the Mediterranean coastline, drinking spritzes out of big wine glasses and nibbling nonstop bites of food with friends into the late hours of the evening. I think experiences like that are something that people are constantly seeking out — it just feels so meaningful.”

For newbies to the aperitif scene, Beyer has shared a recipe featuring Veso’s Strawberry Solstice flavor that should help any novice get well on their way with the drinking process. Since all the ingredients in both Veso flavors are organic and natural, Beyer likes to use the same fruit-forward principles in his cocktail recipe suggestions. This particular recipe focuses on kumquats, but lemons, oranges, grapefruits, any sort of berry, or even yuzu would work just as well.

“I love to make Veso spritzes with Strawberry Solstice, a splash of sparkling water, and a squeeze of whatever citrus is in season locally — blood oranges, Meyer lemons, or yuzu,” Beyer explained. “When in doubt, just browse the fruit aisle at Rainbow Grocery and pick what looks good. This recipe uses kumquats, which are currently in season (though not for long) and are unique in that you can eat the whole thing, rind and all . Living in California, using local ingredients is easy — we grow some of the best of every fruit out there.”

Kumquat Solstice Spritz

  • 4 oz Veso Strawberry Solstice
  • 2 oz Sparkling Water
  • Kumquats, for garnish

Cut the kumquats in half and lightly muddle in a tall glass to release the juice. 

Fill the cup up with ice, and top with sparkling water and Strawberry Solstice. 

Add the muddled kumquats as a fun, edible garnish — eat the whole peel, it’s both sweet and tart, and the sour juice adds a nice kick to the spritz.