Apéro time in France The French ritual of sharing drinks and nibbles with friends before lunch or dinner.
From simple snacks to elaborate canapés
When in France, do as the French! And the French love few things more than their apéro, the ritual of catching up with friends and neighbours over drinks and nibbles. It can be as simple as a few beers or a glass of wine with crips or pretzels. Or it can involve cocktails and an impressive spread of canapés.
Jeremy Gaunt & Adrie van der Luijt
There are no rules! Apéro is a very casual affair. The intention is to relax and catch up, not to get drunk and spoil your appetite. After all, it typically takes part just before lunch or dinner; importantly, the apéro does not include the meal itself. You are expected to part company before lunch or dinner is served. So don’t expect a barbecque or meal invite.
The French don’t really snack between meals during the day. But they certainly love some crisps or nuts before a meal. Alternatively, some simple crackers with cheese, slices of cold meat or a bowl of local olives are an excellent accompaniment to a pre-meal drink. If you want to go further, French supermarkets sells excellent puff pastry snacks that you can just stick in the oven.
If your neighbours invite you for drinks and nibbles, don’t panic! Although you may be surprised to be offered a stiff whiskey or gin and tonic even at noon, the French know when to stop drinking. And they won’t be offended if you turn it down because you have to drive home, for example. It is not unusal to drink a Martini.
Apéro drinks tend to be light alcoholic. A popular choice is kir, white wine mixed with crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur). Other fruit liqueurs can be used too. If you use a sparkling wine, it is known as a Kir Royale. When it comes to wine, a refreshing local white or pink make an excellent choice. If you go for red, don’t go for anything too full-bodied. Belgian beers are popular in France, but French beers are fine too.
Pastis and Pernod are an anise or liquorice-flavoured spirits that you dilute with water to your taste. Traditionally from the south, they are popular throughout France. The French drink on average 2 liters per person each year! You pour a bit of Pastis into a glass first, followed by about five times more water. The liquid goes cloudy when it comes into contact with water.
Relax! L’apéro is a perfect opportunity to have the neighbours round for drinks and nibbles. Feel free to invite other people too, such as friends who live or stay nearby. It is a very informal chance to return a favour, allow others to be nosy and introduce people to each other.
Do give your guests a time you’re expecting them to arrive. Don’t tell them just to “pop by at some point”. The French like to know an exact time. Your guests won’t expect anything elaborate. You can serve anything from a bowl of crisps to homemade dips and snacks. Anything your guests can pick up with a cocktail stick is a good idea. Vegetarian, vegan, fish, meats… the choice is yours!
Your local market or store will have readymade nibbles, dips and even cocktails or you can get creative. Feel free to surprise your guests with your favourites from your home country too, because the French – by and large – love trying out unusual food and drink.
With two well-equipped kitchens, the roof terrace and a selection of books packed with inspiration for apéro snacks, Le Fort Pouzols-Minervois is a great place to discover the French joie de vivre, their zest for life.
Local grocery store Grains d’Ici has a selection of food and drink for apéro. They also cater for parties and events of all sizes, although you will need to book in advance. Alternatively, local markets and supermarkets have everything you need to enjoy a really good apéro during your stay.
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