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Apéro time: Nothing represents the French art of joie de vivre more than the French Apéritif, and hosting one yourself is a brilliant idea! But what is so special about the apéritif in France, it’s only nibbles and drinks before dinner, isn’t it?

Simply put, yes it is. But culturally and socially, Apéro time is so much more, and I will tell you exactly why in this article.

If you are seeking inspiration on what to serve at your next French Apéritif party, you find plenty of authentic French Apéro ideas at the end of this post.

Aperol Spritz with Snacks as a French Aperitif
according to me: A perfect Apéro

Why is Apéro time so important in France? 

The apéro is sacred in France, and I would even go as far as saying it is the most important meal of the day for most French.

You might think that all the hype about Apéro is actually just a pretext to find yet another occasion to drink. I agree it’s quite an obvious assumption, but traditionally, the French apéritif is meant to prepare and stimulate your pallet and appetite for the meal that is about to come.

Today, the Apéritif in France is actually mainly about socializing and gathering. And even more, the moment to unwind and relax in a convivial atmosphere and get ready for dinner. Enjoying an apéro means leaving your workday and chores behind and starting to focus on what matters most: your private life. 

 

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It is also an excellent occasion for you to quickly catch up with friends, neighbors, or acquaintances before spending dinner at home with your family, or having plans for the evening. If you meet someone for Apéro in France, expectations are set: An apéro is not supposed to take up much more of your time than an hour, and it is absolutely acceptable for you to have other plans for after.

Especially if you are living a busy life between work and family, a quick apéro is a great (and often the only) way of socializing and staying in touch with friends.

Bordeaux weekend trip
One of the many bars in Bordeaux – you can tell it’s time for Apéro

 

I suspect, one of the reasons why Apéro is so important in France is because it gives you so much liberty. And as you probably know, Liberté is one of the French national devises.

That might sound a bit pretentious, but when doing a French apéro, you can basically do whatever the heck you want. Do you want to take your Apéro home? In a bar? In a Park? Or while waiting for your train? Yes, great, go for it!

Do you want to drink wine, excellent! Ah, you prefer Champagne? Rum, a cocktail, sparkling water, or just a Coke? That’s cool.

And it goes without saying that this freedom applies as well to the food items – you are literally free to serve anything you want when hosting a French Apéritif, as long as you can prepare it before. Because the host is expected to join the Apéro and not stand in the kitchen to keep the snacks coming.

 

When is Apéro Time?

Apéro time is the sweet time between work and dinner. There is no fixed timeframe for it, and it completely depends on when you eat, but mostly, the French apéritif is taken between 18:00 and 21h.

Sometimes, mostly on weekends, you find apéro also served before lunch. However, this is mainly common for bigger gatherings or special occasions like birthday lunches. A very nice thing to do, but nothing that you can expect to happen on random Tuesdays.

Plate fo food with hand of little person
Apéro my little balcony – and a little hand trying to sneak some charcuterie

 

Is the Apéro a daily thing in France?

No, well… yes. Maybe. It depends.

Many are having a very basic Apéro at home in the form of a glass of wine or beer before dinner, accompanied by a few nuts or chips a couple of times a week or more. Just to relax and leave the day behind them.

The majority of French people are enjoying an Apéro on weekends, and I dare to say all of them do when having friends or family over. But then there as well the Apéritifs in France that you take with friends or colleagues in a bar before heading home. And the bigger Apéro Dînatoirs that you have instead of cooking.

 

And after all, I NEVER got a “non” for an answer whenever I asked one of my French friends if they want to meet for a quick Apéro (on prend l’apéro?). So, my take on it is that in France, we don’t have an Apéro every day, but we very well could.

French Aperitif including chips, nuts, olives and veggies

Apéro, apéritif, apéritif et apéro dînatoir … what?

You might think that those are just synonyms for one and the same thing, but they are – in fact – not. It can be confusing, as many things in the French language, but let me break it down for you:

→ Apéro is short for Apéritif and means a convivial and short gathering around a drink and some snacks before dinner time.

→ Apéritif in a restaurant is a drink you can order before you actually start your dinner. Most places serve a little bowl with peanuts or olives as a side, but it’s not always the case.

→ Apéro Dînatoir is nothing else than a normal apéro, but with so much food and drink items that it covers dinner as well. It is usually served at parties or gathering with more than a handful of people and prevents the host to prepare a sit-down dinner. If you are invited to an apéro Dînatoir in France, you are commonly expected to bring something as well.

What to serve as French apéritifs for an Apéro?

Do you want to host an Apéro yourself and are searching for ideas on what to serve? You came to the right place! I live in Paris for more than 16 years and I attended and hosted hundreds of Apéros and Aperos Dînatoirs over the years I assembled a list of the most appreciated snacks for your French Apéritif.

 

The best apéritif snacks for your French Apéro

One of the absolute best things about Apéros is that they are so easy to fix up.

The most common nibbles that are served for Apéros are:

  • Nuts
  • Saucisson (dried sausage cut in slices)
  • Chips and Crackers
  • Olives
  • Carrot and cucumber sticks or radish with salted butter
  • Dips like Hummus, Tapenade, or Tzatziki with bread or sesame sticks

Keep in mind the purpose of your French apéritif, though. If you are serving a proper dinner afterward, you want to keep it light; the apéro aims to stimulate the pallet, not fill up the stomach!

 

A planche of a typicl French Apéro in Paris
A “planche” as you would order it in a restaurant as Apéritif in France

 

The best snacks for a French Apéro Dînatoir!

If you want to host a French Apéro Dînatoir, you won’t come very far with a few nuts and chips, as it’s supposed to substitute the dinner. An Apéro Dînatoir requires more preparation, but with a bit of planning, it’s easily done.

Personally, I stock up on items I would serve for apéro and prepare 2-3 extra dishes. The most common dishes and snacks for an Apéro Dînatoir are those:

  • Tarte Soleil (my personal favorite. It’s so easy to prepare, but always makes an impression. Recipe
  • Grougères (cheesy choux pastries from Burgundy. Recipe)
  • Salty Cakes (Recipe)
  • Tomato and Mustard Tarte (Recipe)
  • Terrines, Paté or Rillettes with bread (like these)
  • Pissaladière (Recipe)
  • Quiche or Pizza
  • cold cuts
  • cheese

 

Tarte soleil for a french apero
A tarte soleil is prepared in 5 minutes, but looks like a lot of work!

 

But this is just a list of the most common things. There is also smoked salmon, middle eastern treats that are perfect for finger food, naans, samosas, filled peppers, focaccia, melon, and all sorts of fruit, but also seafood, Nachos, or chicken wings.

The best drinks for a French Apéritif

Without a drink, there is no apéro. While most drinks enjoyed are indeed alcoholic, there is a range of non-alcoholic drinks that are easy and often drank for apéro. So if you are not feeling it or are overall not that much of a drinker, you will still get to enjoy your apéro.

 

Most popular drinks for apéritif in France

  • White wine or rosé (Rosé with ice cubes is called “piscine“, swimming pool)
  • Kir – white wine with Crème de Cassis (you also can take this Black Currant Syrup)
  • Kir Royal – Champagne with Crème de Cassis (you also can take this Black Currant Syrup)
  • Aperol Spritz
  • Pastis with ice cubes
  • Crémant or Champagne
  • Beer

Drinks for l’apéro without alcohol

A very popular apéritif drink without alcohol is sparkling water, preferable Perrier, with mint syrop. But you can, of course, add every flavor you like, admittedly, mint is a tad special if it’s not related to a dental hygiene product.

Other popular drinks are:

  • Soft drinks
  • virgin versions of beer, wine, and champagne
  • Alcohol-free cocktails like Gin Tonic or Spritz based on alcohol-free liqueurs 
  • homemade ice teas and lemonades