Monday, January 11, 2021

Non-Alcoholic Review: Giffard Aperitif Sirop

Hey, so it's been a minute. Reviews stopped last fall because I have barely been drinking. Back in September, the Pacific Northwest experienced one of its worst fire seasons ever. Numerous wildfires, especially in Oregon, blanketed the region with a thick layer of smoke for several weeks. Air quality numbers reached levels almost never seen before, sometimes pegging out the instruments. While I got off fairly lightly in the scheme of things due to an already installed HEPA filter in our HVAC system, I don't think I was unscathed. I had a low-grade headache for weeks, even after the smoke had cleared. And it rapidly became apparent that alcohol was a major trigger.

After a few unpleasant experiences I just stopped trying to consume any alcohol and it slipped out of my regular rotation. No whisky samples quietly sipped on the weekend, no aperitifs while I cooked, or post-dinner drinks to settle my stomach. I would periodically give it a try, which would usually provoke another nasty headache. Eventually it just completely fell off.

So I was rather excited to see a tweet from Camper English about Giffard's Aperitif Sirop. As the name suggests, this is built to mimic classic aperitif spirits like Campari or Aperol, but without any alcohol. I poked around the internet for a while, but didn't really want to pay shipping for a single liter bottle from out of state. Lucky for me, I guessed that I had seen other Giffard syrups at one of my local liquor stores and found it while picking up a Christmas present.
As a basic Campari substitute, it does alright. With soda water and a bit of lemon peel the aromas are rather faint - berries, coffee, lemon. The sip begins sweetly with slightly artificial berry notes, switches to a syrupy vanilla thickness in the middle, then crashing into a wall of bitterness with citrus overtones at the back. While this recapitulates the basic form it's seeking to imitate, there are definitely limitations. It doesn't have the same aromas or nuance, likely limited by the solvent effects of being a zero proof syrup.

With that said, if you're really trying to stay away from alcohol this is a totally legit substitute. Some of its deficiencies can be remedied with bitters to add more complexity and offset the sweetness. Used to reduce the proof of a multi-ingredient drink can also cover up some of the defects. Overall I think this is a really good tool to have in your kit, especially for bars looking to cater to abstemious guests.

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