Forget about big, boozy cocktails. Increasingly, you\u2019ll find ap\u00e9ritifs in the glass. Consumers are seeking out easy-drinking cocktails with less alcohol (and yes, fewer calories). Coincidentally, a flurry of delightful spirits with relatively gentler proofs is reaching U.S. markets.\r\n\r\nMixologists are responding to this perfect storm of supply and demand by creating delectable new creations, and even reinventing drink menus to showcase lower-alcohol libations.\r\n\r\nThe following restaurants/bars focus on ap\u00e9ritif cocktails for very different reasons.\r\n\r\nAt OAK at fourteenth in Boulder, Colorado, Co-owner and Beverage Director Bryan Dayton drew inspiration from time he spent in Europe, where the ap\u00e9ritif (or the Italian equivalent, aperitivo) has its roots.\r\n\r\nIn Italy, France and other parts of Europe, the pre-dinner tipple was once commonplace. A lightly alcoholic drink was considered a civilized way to sharpen the appetite and ease into the dinner hour\u2014particularly during warm-weather months. Now, American bartenders like Dayton are rediscovering this tradition.\r\n\r\nAt Atlanta\u2019s Holeman & Finch Public House, the selection of suppressor cocktails (cocktails in which traditional spirits as an ingredient are not used, but vermouths, fortified wines like Sherry and amaros like Cynar are featured instead) began as a friendly competition among bartenders seeking a low-octane alternative to revivers, a drink category often fortified with several hard liquors.\r\n\r\n\u201cThis is a driving town,\u201d says Greg Best, co-owner and bartender at Holeman & Finch. \u201cWe wanted drinks that aren\u2019t lacking in complexity, just lacking in booze.\u201d\r\n\r\nSee how the bartenders approach modern ap\u00e9ritif cocktails.\r\nDancing Lightly\r\nAt Holeman & Finch, a selection of suppressors are featured on the daily lunch menu, under the heading \u201cErrands to Run.\u201d High-proof options are listed under \u201cThe Day Is Shot.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cWe broke away from the normal approach to building a cocktail,\u201d Best says. \u201cIt\u2019s a new way to explore old ingredients.\u201d\r\nSuppressor #21\r\nA luscious and complex drink to savor, thanks to the harmonious combination of bitter-edged Cynar, spiced Barolo Chinato (infused Piedmont wine) and the honeyed notes of Sherry.\r\n\r\n1 ounce Cynar\r\n1 ounce Barolo Chinato\r\n1 ounce Amontillado Sherry\r\n2 dashes of Regans\u2019 Orange Bitters No. 6\r\nGrapefruit peel, for oils\r\n\r\nStir together the Cynar, Barolo Chinato, Sherry and bitters, and strain into a rocks glass over a large cube of ice. Express oils from the grapefruit peel over top of the drink and discard the peel.\r\nKey ingredient: Cynar\r\nAlthough Cynar is an artichoke-based liqueur, it doesn\u2019t taste like artichokes. Rather, it\u2019s an intensely herbal and bitter Italian amaro that practically begs to be mixed.\r\nBest says he likes Cynar because it \u201cadds a savory quality\u201d to drinks, as well as welcome viscosity and spice.\r\n\r\nAlthough it can be mixed simply (with tonic, lemonade or iced tea) it also works well to add punch and complexity to more spirited rum or whiskey drinks, as in The Art of Choke from The Violet Hour in Chicago (made with white rum, Cynar, lime juice and Green Chartreuse). Other bitter-tinged spirits to try include Campari and Aperol.\r\nEuropean Influence\r\nAt OAK at fourteenth the mixed drink menu is deliberately delineated into three sections: No Alcohol, Low Alcohol and High Alcohol. Dayton says he drew inspiration from time he spent in Europe, \u201cwhere drinking is not such a taboo,\u201d and drinks might progress from apple cider at lunch to Calvados at dinner.\r\n\r\nThe world has grown smaller, he says, and many of Europe\u2019s ap\u00e9ritif spirits\u2014like Barolo Chinatos and quinquinas\u2014have made their ways to other countries.\r\n\r\n\u201cSo many bartenders are going to Europe and coming back here, taking that inspiration and making ap\u00e9ritifs a truly American thing,\u201d says Dayton.\r\nThe French Open\r\nOriginally, this drink was made with gin, but Dayton found that the wine-based spirit Lillet Blanc provided similar botanical notes, so he dropped the gin from the recipe.\r\n\r\n2 fresh raspberries, plus 1 additional berry for garnish\r\n1 ounce Lillet Blanc\r\n\u00bd ounce honey simple syrup (1 part honey to 1 part water)\r\n\u00bc ounce lemon juice\r\nDry sparkling wine, such as Prosecco\r\n\r\nMuddle the raspberries in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add the Lillet, simple syrup, lemon juice and ice. Shake well, then double strain into a Champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine. Float one fresh raspberry on top as garnish.\r\nKey Ingredient: Lillet\r\nPronounced lil-LAY, this blend of 85% Bordeaux wine and 15% citrus liqueurs comes in three variations: Blanc (or Blonde), Rouge and Ros\u00e9.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe order Lillet Blanc and Rouge by the case,\u201d Dayton says. \u201cEveryone else probably orders by the bottle. We\u2019re very into ap\u00e9ritifs.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe French ap\u00e9ritif wine, established in the late 1800s, can be subbed for vermouth in virtually any cocktail\u2014Dayton uses it in his variation on a Manhattan (Bulleit Bourbon, Benedictine, Lillet Rouge, bitters and honey). But the simplest route for a hot day is a pour of Lillet on the rocks, with a generous squeeze of lime.