P1020922L’apéritif is sacred in France. That means it comes with all kinds of rituals and even special equipment, though that’s not what counts. You can have a fine apéro, as the French like to shorten it to, with just a glass of wine. The ritual can be done by anybody.

Filling the streets near the Saturday market.

The first and most important ingredient is people. You thought I’d say alcohol, but no. Even if you’re having a soft drink, you can enjoy apéritif hour. It’s a moment of socializing with friends, family, even strangers. The connections and conversation, regardless of whether they’re lubricated with alcohol, are what count.

I photographed this one too early; usually the Saillan is one of the busiest cafés

Around here, there are two times for apéritifs: the typical one, around 6 p.m., for before-dinner drinks. And similarly around 11 a.m., for before-lunch drinks. I find that to guarantee an unproductive afternoon, so instead I raise a cup of coffee to toast friends I bump into at the Saturday market.

Beer: Breakfast of champions? A daring place to place a glass, on a bollard barely big enough.

Indeed, the cafés around the market buzz with activity, and many of the coffee cups get replaced by stemmed glasses of wine as noon approaches. Cafés put tables (chairs optional) or wine barrels into the streets that are closed for the market. It’s a big party, and some are so packed, despite the extra street space, that you can barely wiggle past. Feel free to strike up conversation with anybody. It’s all friendly, especially at noon.

Preparing for a crowd.

A few set up tables serving appetizers, called zakouskis. Zakouskis are part of the ritual. Don’t drink on an empty stomach! Olives and nuts are popular. Pretzels, chips, all that jazz. Charcuterie, or hard sausages, though cheese usually is reserved for after dinner except for little cubes, sprinkled with herbs or celery salt. Also smaller nibbles, which can be elaborate, like tapas, or even become a meal, in which case it’s an apéritif dînatoire.

Plenty of choice in the olive department, and this isn’t even everything.

For drinks, you have the standards: wine (red, white and rosé), sparkling wine, white wine or sparkling wine with a dash of cassis liqueur for a kir or kir royale (if sparkling), the apéro of Dijon.

Best served cold, under a palm tree.

Around here, anise-flavored pastis is popular, called un jaune–a yellow–because the clear, golden pastis oxidizes and becomes a cloudy yellow when ice and water are added. It’s a drink with lots of equipment–special glasses with a line showing how far to pour the pastis; water pitchers and ice buckets. The Ricard brand is so popular that many people just ask for a Ricard, if they don’t say “p’tit jaune.”



Among cocktails, le petit ponch, also shortened to ti-ponch, has rum, lime and cane syrup with origins in France’s tropical colonies.P1030304

Oysters are also popular, with a glass of white wine. Not so much in summer….

Apéritif comes from the Latin word aperire, to open. They had a medicinal origin, with the concoctions of herbs for laxative effect, cited in the 13th century. (See some here.) But in modern times (since the mid-1700s), an apéritif is intended to open your stomach, to make you hungry.

Will you be raising a glass with friends this weekend?

40 thoughts on “Apéritifs

  1. I participated in a classic car event yesterday where the mid-point stop was apéro. Orange juice, water and pamplemousse rosé (which is a drink mix widely believed not to be alcoholic…) Served with crisps. Simple to do for the several hundred people who turned up in their classic cars.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Days on the Claise; I always see that pamplemousse thingie but I don’t trust it at all! In my opinion (founded on nothing) I don’t want wine to be mixed with anything (except for kirs of course)…. So IF you do drink it can you tell me how it REALLY tastes and why it would be mixed with pamplemousse?! I know one person who always brought this to gatherings but I thought she did so because of her driving, and it also makes sense for classic car ev ents where ppl are driving afterwards, but is the probably reduced alcohol content worth taking the risk of spoiling a wine? Or should I have tasted our friend’s offerings?!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I so enjoy your little slices of French life. I ADORE everything about cocktail hour, whether for a crowd or just myself. My favorite part of the day is when my husband and I both get home from work, fix ourselves a bourbon, martini or G&T, and sit outside and chat about anything we think of. It’s a luscious little ritual in which we have each other’s undivided attention, and that’s even better than the drinks or nibbles!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ALWAYS!
    Although I have not had a drink since last SEPTEMBER!That Health issue and now they have me YEAST FREE so no wine for me!I’m sure there is an ORGANIC wine with NO YEAST but my fingers haven’t done the google search yet!For me its having the glass to sip……I really don’t CARE what’s in the glass I have COME TO FIND OUT!
    YOUR photos transport me back to EUROPE……….I LOVE IT THERE!
    MERCI for showing us HOW LIFE CAN BE LIVED!

    Liked by 1 person

        YEAST is EVERYWHERE!!!
        Wine, VINEGAR, CONDIMENTS,GLuten Free breads…………its all making A LOT of SENSE RIGHT NOW!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I love French apero hour. My French brother-in-law has a heavy hand…his gins used to leave me poll-axed. But sitting in the hot sun, the drinks and snacks on the table (the little, wrapped cheese cubes!) and nattering away together is perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love this custom and over the years have spent many happy afternoons with friends in France talking over plans for the next day or what we say that day. At home my husband and I do this every day, in the summer we sit on the front porch with our pups and talk about work, life and whatever else comes to mind. If my husband is out of town I sit with my glass of fresh squeezed limeaide and some books and spend an hour relaxing.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. This sounds so lovely! The more I learn about France, the more I identify with its culture. If I could live there, even for a year or two, I’d jump at the chance!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I try to write about all the intangible things about France that you can do at home, like taking time for a good meal, or having an apéritif. Part of the culture is a mindset, about really savoring life. That can be done anywhere! But I also hope you get to realize your dream and to live here a while.


  7. What I like about France is that daily life seems to have a rhythm in which moments of busyness alternate with moments of rest and unwinding. It seems to be a balance, an expectation that if it’s lunch time, people are going to take their time and enjoy it. The same for evening. Is it true that wines served at lunch time have less alcohol content than wines for dinner? I know that in Romania (where I am originally from) there are varieties of wine with very low alcohol content (around 11%) that are for day time consumption , with lighter meals. They also use ice cubes and sparkling water to chill and dilute, so sipping on a glass like that is quite refreshing. The stronger wines are usually saved for larger, more elaborated dinner meals.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. How delightful! No apéro on the cards this weekend, but a lingering lunch at friends’ instead coming up. Of course, a glass of bubbles will probably ease us into occasion and if kir royale is on offer, I will jump at the chance! Neither do I mind a pastis. However, like its anise cousin ouzo, somehow these drinks never taste the same when “back home” – they miss the essential ingredients of atmosphere which you have conjured so well!

    I do appreciate the civilised approach to social drinking in countries like France – nibbles and a bit of moderation – which stands in contrast to some Anglo-Saxon cultures (hard drinking is a serious business for some!).

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ahhh…the infamous pastis. Can’t say I enjoyed it even when I lived there and still drank alcohol. I’m not a fan of anything with a liquorice flavour.

    Do they still close everything between noon and four? Our little Intermarche was only open between 9-12 and then again from 4-7 so that they could have an extra long lunch. It wasn’t very convenient but that it part of the charm of living there.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pastis is ubiquitous here. I’m not so into it, maybe because it’s everywhere or maybe because I’ve gotten soft and need to water it down to an extreme extent.
      Yes, things close, at least between noon and two, if not longer. Even the primary school shuts down for a two-hour lunch. The village grocery closes for four hours, but supermarkets in town are open nonstop. As you say, not convenient yet charming.


  10. Love Kirs, but very often I go for a Kir Breton with cidre brut. That way, the bottled opened for the kirs can be ‘finished off’ with the meal right away…. It’s less wine-heavy and ideal on hot days.
    I also adore pastis, BUT my cardiologist told me I shouldn’t eat/drink anything with liquorice and anis…. Well done Monsieur le docteur! Enchantée….. But what I’ll do right now, although it’s in the middle of the afternoon, is fixing myself a Pastis, with ice cold water and some ice cubes to make it even more cheerful. Pernod seems (to me) less strong than other brands but in the end I don’t care. A little sin – and it hasn’t killed me yet 😉
    A wonderful summer post! And I agree with those who have a problem with Pastis. It’s an acquired taste, but I seem to be an early addict because on hols I also always ordered an ouzo when in Greece!
    I do NOT like to dilute my wine, ever. In Switzerland, ‘Spritz’ are very popular and it makes me nearly angry to see how people pay a premium for a watered-down wine. You pay easily between CHF 7-12 per glass (that’s one deci….. 10ml)! Rip-off. I then choose a panache because that’s really nice too when you’re hot and need to cool down a bit (without access to a pool!).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Agree. The only thing is, in Switzerland, no wine is cheap. And I’m totally with you on the boxed wine. Since I have no car available (HH needs it to drive to CH and back), I now often buy a 2.2-3l ‘box’ of decent wine. It’s amazing, what you can get for around 12€….. I ‘met’ those box-wines when doing music weeks in the Savoy Alps and equally when in Barcelona for a choral week. We drank gallons of it, nothing over-fancy but honest, good, easy stuff. Then, I bought one to try out for us at home; we happened to have guests from abroad and they happily lapped it up in no time too.

        Liked by 1 person

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