Thursday, October 4, 2012


I want to introduce you good readers to a beautiful French custom known as l’apéritif, or l’apéro. L'apéro is an alcoholic drink taken in the late afternoon, with the intent of whetting the appetite and calming the spirit after the business of the day. It is accompanied by something to nibble, which may be more or less complicated. Some common drinks include champagne, whisky, port, or traditional aperitif "wines." These wines include vermouth, byrrh, and Dubonnet, and are made of wine or grape juice that is fortified by spirits (distilled alcohol), and flavored with various herbs.


Many cultures have a similar custom called by another name. Chez moi, l’apéro exists in its truest form (i.e. as a preface to a larger meal), especially when we have guests. But we also enjoy slightly different versions modified to the culture of our home. For example, when it is very hot we might make the food a bit heartier and call it a meal. Or if we are expecting guests who insist they won't need to eat when they arrive, I still prepare an aperitif and a snack (in case they were just being polite). Its a delicious way to linger and chat, to catch up and unwind. Often after the kids are in bed, my husband and I will sit down to enjoy a drink and some light food as we catch up with each other. We even sometimes make it "dinner" and a movie.

L’apéro anyone?

Let me give you some easy and practical suggestions about how to incorporate this custom into your life. Start by picking a drink. Go with one of the suggestions listed above if you have it; if you are feeling adventurous try the vermouth. As Americans, we tend to view vermouth merely as a mixer, but that isn't its history or identity in much of the world. Chill a bottle of Noilly Prat or Martini & Rossi dry (white) vermouth - both are readily available and less than $10 a bottle. Pour 2-3 oz (about the size of a double shot) into a rocks glass, with or without ice. Some like to add a splash of soda water. Garnish with a lemon. Choose your food depending on the time and situation. Some foods that show up frequently at my house are nuts, olives, sausage, cured meats, cheese, and always a loaf of fresh crusty bread.  Slice the bread and arrange the food in bowls. With a little attention to detail even the humblest of fare can seem glamorous, so never forget - presentation, presentation, presentation. Set out little plates and voila - l’apéro.

Standard table service for l’apéro at my house. Simple and beautiful.


  1. I wish I could come over for one right now! Miss you : )

  2. This is just to-die-for classy. Thank God Sarah pointed me your way, I have so much to learn about the art of drinking/foreign movie watching/color coordinating, etc.

    Jenny, a former lurker

    1. Thank you, Jenny! And thank you for coming out into the light : ) Any friend of Sarah's is a friend of mine!


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