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How to Apéro Like the French

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Barring the afternoon snack of school children, it’s true: Snacking between meals isn’t really a thing in France. Unless, of course, you swap in the word snack for “apéro.” Pausing for a drink and small bite during apéritif hour is sacred across France — and easily translates to your own backyard.



The word apéritif, derived from the Latin “aperire” or “to open,” refers both to a set of low alcohol-by-volume bottles (such as vermouth, sherry or Suze) as well as drinks. Meant to whet the appetite and always paired with a small, savory bite, l’apéro often takes place during the transition from day to evening, though a lunchtime apéro isn’t unheard-of.

The apéritifs should lean dry, modest in alcohol and simple: a glass of still or sparkling wine, a beer or a simple mixed drink, such as a classic Kir, Vermouth spritz or Picon Bière.

Or you can make the All Day Cassis. I often batch the combination of dry vermouth, lemon juice and crème de cassis, then top with tonic and sparkling rosé on site. If children are joining — and, in France where the culture of the apéritif is woven into daily life, they often are — or if you’re abstaining, your drink of choice could be a flavored sparkling water, a bitter-leaning soda or a Nonalcoholic Dirty Lemon Tonic.

The goal here is to open your palate, and yourself, up for the meal to come, and an apéro is no apéro at all without a snack. Once you have your drink sorted, look to something small and savory. If you don’t feel like cooking, do as the French do: open a bag of chips, a container of salted nuts or a jar of olives. Alternatively, transfer a favorite store-bought dip to a prettier vessel and pair with crunchy vegetables or crusty bread. You get the idea.

If you’re willing to put in a touch more effort, make a quick tapenade with your choice of green or black olives, or a simple pink peppercorn marinated chèvre. I first had this very pretty, very easy to make goat cheese snack at the local market in Antibes, and now I make it on a weekly basis. To prepare, cover a round of bright white chèvre in olive oil, sprinkle with dried herbs and a shock of pink peppercorns, and let sit for a few hours (or overnight). Add a baguette and it’s elevated snacking at its best.

You can (and should) apéro at home, certainly. But its beauty lies in its portability. When the weather is nice, grab a stack of less-breakable cups and a few napkins and step into the sun, whether it be on a terrace or patio, in a garden or backyard, or on a grass-stained picnic blanket in the park.

Wherever you are and whatever you call it, make it as simple as these three recipes.

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