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The French apéritif is a tradition of particular significance, something sacred in France. Take a walk through the center of Paris or any French city at the end of a beautiful spring or summer day, and you’ll see the bars and terraces come to life!
What is an apéro? Apéro is the short way to say French apéritif
Apéro in France is typically recognized as a pre-dinner drink, a moment to relax over a couple of drinks and a few snacks. The French apéritif is a moment of sharing – with family or friends -, and preparing your palate for the meal to follow.
Do you want to know more about the French apéritif? Here’s your guide to the perfect French apéro.
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1. L’Heure de l’Apéro
When can you take an apéro in France? Even if this article is focused on French pre-dinner drinks, an apéritif is also possible before lunch, especially on weekends. People like to enjoy pre-lunch apéritifs around 12 – 12.30 pm.
Evening apéros usually start around 6 – 7 pm but there’s no fixed rule.
During the week, apéritifs can be something spontaneous with co-workers at the end of a working day, and they usually kick off with the magic words:
Alors . . . on prend l’apéro?
If you like drinking pastis, then you are allowed to start with the apéro at 3.45 pm (‘Quatre heures moins le quart, l’heure du Ricard!’) 😉
2. Where to Take a French Apéritif
You can take the apéritif anywhere, either at home or in your favorite bar or terrace.
When the bars are closed in France during the pandemic, virtual aperós on Zoom are very common. In our Facebook group, we always host a virtual apéro on Fridays, and it is a post where we discuss a specific topic while drinking our favorite drink.
Winter in Paris
During the winter, bars, wine bars, and pubs are the most common places to take an apéro in Paris.
During the week, apéros with friends take place in central places that suit everybody (not too far from their working places or their homes).
Apéros with co-workers usually take place near the office or working place. For example, at La Défense (Paris’ business district), you will find many bars around the towers with special offers for the apéro time.
Summer in Paris
In summertime, days are longer, and the weather is definitely better, so people are more flexible, especially during the week.
During the summer, terraces, guinguettes, and the fanciest Paris rooftop bars tend to replace the bars. Another (more casual) option in the summer is to go to one of Paris’ parks or the canal banks at la Villette or Canal Saint-Martin. Pick a bottle of your favorite rosé and some snacks, and you are set for a fun apéro with your friends.
TIP: If you plan to bring a few bottles to the apéro, make sure you pack your wine properly, so it arrives safely home!
3. Apéritif Drinks
Apéritif drinks usually contain alcohol, so let us suggest drinking in moderation. When we speak of French apéritif, you can enjoy pretty much any drink, but there are some essential French drinks for an apéritif in France.
French wine is always a good idea for a French apéritif. In wintertime, red wine is more common, while in the summer, whites and rosés tend to replace the reds. If you are not familiar with the wines in France, read this article about French wines.
This can be anything from industrial brands like 1664 or Kronenbourg to bars that brew their own beer (the new trend in France!). You will also find Parisian or Francilian brasseries producing all kinds of beers like La Parisienne, Société Parisienne de Bière, Brasserie Parisis, La Montreuilloise, or Brasserie de la Goutte d’Or.
Kir or Kir Royal
Kir is one of the most popular French apéritif drinks, a French cocktail made with a measure of crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) topped up with white wine. You can also have other crème mixers like peach or cherry.
If you mix the crème with sparkling wine or champagne, then the kir becomes royal!
Rum is another common drink for a French apéritif, courtesy of our French overseas departments. When it comes to rums in France, you will be spoilt for choice: fruity rum from Guadeloupe, AOC agricultural rum from Martinique, or full-bodied rum from Réunion Island.
If you are in Paris, head to La Rhumerie in the Saint-Germain neighborhood (166 Boulevard Saint-Germain), a beautiful bar with the best rums in the city!.
Other French Apéritif Drinks
You will find different French apéritif drinks depending on where you are in France. For example, pastis is an apéritif drink typical of Marseille and Provence, but it is less common to see people drinking pastis in Paris.
Check out this list of famous French drinks, with a chapter dedicated to French Apéritifs.
4. Apéritif Food
The French apéritif usually is served with light snacks like olives, cracks, nuts, or chips. Because the typical French apéro is a prelude to a good meal, you should not eat too much apéritif food.
5. Apéritif Dinatoire (Apéro Dinatoire)
An apéritif dinatoire or apéro dinatoire is an apéritif that involves more than just light snacks, and it usually replaces a proper dinner.
An apéro dinatoire can be planned – you can decide to invite some friends at home or meet them in a bar for an apéro dinatoire – or something more spontaneous.
For example, a simple French apéritif lasting longer than usual can quickly evolve to an apéritif dinatoire. If you are in a bar having an apéritif with friends, at a certain point of the evening the waiter will probably propose looking at their menu, where there are always some finger foods.
Typical foods for an apéritif dinatoire are delicious plates of cold cuts and French cheeses, with a Parisian baguette cut into smaller pieces. You can also find salads, French fries, pâtés, and other finger foods.
Finally, remember that in France, apéro is above all a moment for sharing, relaxing, and catching up with friends and family.
Before starting the apéritif, it is common to toast with everybody (beware that crossing glasses when toasting in a group is considered bad luck) looking into their eyes while saying: Santé!