If you're looking for a non-alcoholic pre-dinner beverage, stop by an Italian import market (or go online). Many Italian aperitivo or aperitif drinks are "analcolici"; free of booze, these soft drinks are made from ingredients like bitter citrus and herbs that stimulate the appetite. Kind of like Campari without the alcohol, sparkling drinks such as Sanbittèr, Crodino, and Chinotto come in charming little glass bottles and can be served chilled in the bottle or over ice with a slice of orange, lemon, or lime. (There's also Camparisoda, which contains a low 10% alcohol.)
Made with bitter oranges, these drinks have a bittersweet flavor that can be an acquired taste. The first time I tried one, I grimaced in confusion! However, I've come to appreciate them, especially when diluted with additional soda water to tame the bite. Some people also mix them with fruit juice.
If you can't find them locally, try Amazon.com, Italia-Gourmet.com, or Soda Pop Stop.
Are you a fan of Italian aperitivi analcolici?
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(Image: Flickr member Conanil licensed under Creative Commons)