A Guide to the French Apéro


This is the time of year for loads of social events, at cafés, at private homes and at the beach. Instead of serving up our standard restaurant review we thought we’d give you a little instruction on how to properly do a French apéro, en Français! 

The apéro is one of the many French traditions around food. And as a true francophile, you understand that food is sacred to French people. Today, we are going to demystify the French apéro for you and give you tips to impress your French hosts when you’re invited for an apéro.

What it is the French apéro?

L’apéro is the short name for “l’apéritif” (we say un apéritif). L’apéro is a pre-dinner drink with finger food (similar to a cocktail party). You normally have it between 6PM and 9PM and it can be a full meal. If it’s a full meal, it’s called “Un apéro dînatoire”. There’s no fixed length for an apero. It can last any where from 30 minutes to 3 hours. Sometimes, it’s just a quick drink with olives. But most of the time, it’s much more than than.

A typical phrase:

“Tu viens pour l’apéro ? On pourra s’installer sur la terrasse.”
(Are you joining us for an apéro? We can sit on the patio.)


Cheese platter via Paris Breakfasts

What to bring to l’apéro?

If you’re invited to someone’s place for an apéro, it’s always a good idea to bring something. And bring something sophisticated. Not cheap beer and crips.
As with all invitations, tell your hosts as soon as you accept the invitation if you don’t eat certain foods so they can be prepared. Not telling them and then not eating what they have prepared is considered extremely rude.

Here are a few ideas of what type of food to bring:

– A “pain de campagne” from the boulangerie + some tapenade
– A “pain aux céréales” from the boulangerie + some rillettes (a rillette is similar to a paté, but instead of in a terrine it is shredded pork or duck preserved in it’s own fat – sounds weird but they are absolutely delicious)
– Any other nice bread with olives or lardons (bacon) + caviar d’aubergines (eggplant dip) or paté
– Some cheese you’ll dice or cut in slivers: Tomme (cow’s or ewe’s), Beaufort, Comté, Tête de Moine, etc.
– A saucisson from the market (with nuts or herbs…)
– Vegetable crisps  

Sardine & Mackeral Rilettes via Culinary Correspondence.com 

…pretty much anything that’s easy to eat and doesn’t require cooking. But do not bring pâté or rillettes… without bread.
Here are a few ideas of drinks to bring:
– a bottle of wine
– a bottle of Muscat
– a bottle of speciality beer
– a bottle of freshly squeezed juice from the market

A typical phrase:

“J’ai amené un petit saucisson aux noisettes, pour l’apéro. Vous m’en direz des nouvelles.”
(I brought a hazelnut saucisson for the apéro. Let’s see what you think of it!”)

What to do at the apéro?

Just sit, enjoy and maybe chitchat. That’s the easiest part. The apéro is a just another opportunity to enjoy the French way of life. You’ll be surrounded by friends, with great food and a nice drink. And you’ll rarely stay “just for the apero”. It is often an excuse to enjoy a full evening together!
Now tell me (in French if you can!):
How have you experienced the apéro in France?
Did you have a drink at 7pm in a wonderful Parisian café?
Or were you invited to a French friend’s home?
It’s great to exchange stories and tips with the GG2P community on Facebook or Twitter.
Bon apéro!

Géraldine is the founder of Comme une Française. She is a French language and lifestyle expert who helps expat women integrate in France. Through her blog and programs, she gives self-confidence and guidance to thousands of women keen to make the most of their new life.

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