Europeans have long enjoyed the tradition of specific pre- and post-dinner drinks bookending their meals. If you’re new to the practice, the basics are this: an aperitif is the drink you have before the meal, a digestif is the one you have after.

But why?

World Class Ambassador Chris Hysted says our tastebuds are at their freshest and most sensitive first thing in the morning – over the course of the day, they get overwhelmed by the flavours that pass over them. By dinnertime, they’re well and truly fatigued. Enter the aperitif to bring them back to life.

“The idea is to reinvigorate the palate,” says Hysted. “Something to get you salivating and ready for the meal ahead. Something light, herbaceous, effervescent and cold works well. A Hot Toddy to start a meal wouldn’t work, for instance.” Something like a simple Tanqueray gin and tonic with a wedge of lime would work well. If you’re feeling more adventurous, try a Margarita, Martini or Negroni.

There’s an argument for an aperitif requiring a low-alcohol content, Hysted says it really depends on the night you’ve got ahead. If you’re matching a few courses with drinks, then tone down the alcohol content in your aperitif. If it’s just a quick meal, then something a bit headier is fine to start.

Digestifs, as the name suggests, are to aid digestion. While the science is out on how effective they are as digestive aids, Hysted notes that, at the very least, they are “a great way to sign off on a nice meal”.

Digestifs tend to be richer than aperitifs, with a denser mouth-feel and fuller flavour. They reflect the meal’s natural progression, and may be sweeter than their pre-dinner counterparts.

Hysted often follows a meal with a nice sipping whisky, such as Johnnie Walker Gold Label Scotch whisky. But he doesn’t mind whipping up a Matcha Matcha Man with Singleton Spey Cascade Scotch whisky when the occasion arises.

A general rule when deciding if a particular spirit will be good as an aperitif or as a digestif is: clear spirits (gin, vodka and tequila) work best before a meal; darker spirits (rum, whisky and brandy) work best after.

Chris Hysted’s Matcha Matcha Man
Makes one. Approximately 1.9 standard drinks.

Ingredients:
50ml green-tea-infused Singleton Spey Cascade Scotch whisky*
15ml white crème de cacao
5ml 1:1 sugar syrup (dissolve 100g caster sugar in 100g water. Store what you don’t use in a jar in the fridge for another cocktail.)
Strip of nori, to garnish

Method:
Stir all the ingredients together in a mixing glass and then strain into a chilled coupette glass. Garnish with the nori strip.

To infuse the whisky take one cup of Singleton Spey Cascade Scotch Whisky, and infuse with one green-tea bag for half an hour, stirring every 10 minutes.

This article is presented in partnership with World Class.