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The art of French Apéro Hour

Glass containing brandy and ginger ale on a tray surrounded by Christmas baubles

In France the traditional aperitif, called an apéro for short, is a cultural ritual, one of the no. 1 pleasures in life. And it’s a brilliant custom that’s easy to adopt everywhere.

Typically enjoyed with friends and family before dinner, ‘L’heure de l’apéro’ – an hour of ‘apéritif’ drinks involves enjoying a drink – wine, liqueurs, spirits and cocktails are all popular, together with nibbles. But the mostly important thing is the company. It’s about friendship, sharing news, keeping in touch. Apéro can be held in person or on line, which makes it perfect for meetups, wherever you are.

Great drinks and cocktails for apéro

Kir is a traditional aperitif in France, white wine and liqueur, usually cassis a blackcurrant liqueur. But it’s become much more popular to have spirits and cocktails.

The French love to make an effort with more indulgent drinks and snacks. Especially for special occasions.

Spirits used to be enjoyed as digestifs but have become much more popular as aperitifs, from whisky to “Eau de Vie”, the water of life, AKA Brandy either drunk alone or in a cocktail. French mixologist Arnaud Volte from The London EDITION hotel has created a delicious, easy to make Bardinet Brandy cocktail Pomme Canelle that’s guaranteed to impress you and your guests. One of the UK’s leading brandies, Bardinet has been crafted with French passion just outside Bordeaux since 1857 and is available easily in the UK.

The perfect snacks for l’heure d’apéro

Bite-sized cheese pastries

Nuts, olives, and savoury crackers are popular snacks with apéritifs. But, if you want to make it special, these easy to make, mouth-wateringly moreish French recipes will jazz up your apéro hour in no time.

Gougères – silky, cheesy balloons of deliciousness

Roquefort beurre – irresistibly tangy and tempting (Find the recipe in our Christmas Magazine – totally free to read online, download and subscribe)

Goats cheese and honey (Find the recipe in our Christmas magazine, link above)

Mini-croques – like the classic croque monsieur – cheese and ham toasties, but cut into squares they make perfect apéro nibbles.

Deliciously gooey baked camembert – just dip a wedge of bread in, it’s heavenly!

Apéro Dinatoire

If you don’t want the fun to end before dinner, simply extend the get together and make it apéro ‘dinatoire’. Bigger bowls of nibbles and party style food that’s substantial like quiches, cheese, meats and bread and small cake.

Online apéro

Even if you can’t be together in person – you can take apéro online. WhatsApp, Zoom, FaceTime and Skype are the new ‘in’ places to meet up and have inspired a new trend – virtual apéro. Send out your invitation and make it even more special by gifting guests a bottle of something special or let them know what to bring, including ingredients for a delicious cocktail and nibbles. It’s a great way to inspire new festive traditions with your favourite people – even when you’re far apart.

Top tips for hosting virtual apéro

Woman smiles into a tablet, holding a glass of brandy and ginger aleCreate an atmosphere: You don’t want this to feel like an online work meeting so set the scene and make this an occasion.

Send out invites in plenty of time so guests are geared up for whatever platform your meetup will be held on.

If you’re making cocktails, let everyone know what the ingredients are so you can all join in.

If you hold a group apéro, make sure someone takes the lead in controlling the chat, less people talking over each other is good.

Play a little French music in the background for authentic ambiance.

Steer clear of politics as a topic of conversation if you want to keep it fun!

Why not play some games? Quizzes and charades are perfect for apéro. Virtual karaoke is huge fun and easy to organise in advance. It will also get everyone talking about the event before they even tune in. YouTube has lots of karaoke options including Non, Je ne Regrette Rien and I promise you, belting that out in your living room or kitchen, in your best Edith Piaf voice is a moment everyone will cherish forever!

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