The French have a passion for life’s simple pleasures, especially when those pleasures involve food and friends. Nothing captures this joie de vivre better than the French art of l’apéro, a casual pre-dinner party that’s sacred in French culture.
Similar to a pre-dinner cocktail hour, apéro is the time of day in France to unwind and relax before dinner with a light drink (or two), a small spread of snacks, and your favorite people. Typically held before the evening meal (but totally acceptable for lunch), apéro celebrates the end of the day in true French style: with good friends, great food, and tons of spirit.
While this tradition may be rooted in French culture, there’s no reason you can’t recreate it in the comfort of your home or your vacation home in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama. Embrace the art of apéro hour, and you might just find it becomes your favorite part of the day.
The Essence of Apéro Hour
Before embarking on this delightful journey, it’s crucial to understand the essence of apéro. Rooted in French hospitality, it’s more than just food and drink. It’s about sharing, laughter, and setting the stage for the evening meal. Think of it as an appetizer to the main course, both in conversation and cuisine.
Crafting Your Apéro Menu
Bites to Savor: The apéro spread is simple yet refined. (Remember, the goal is to stimulate the appetite, not destroy it.) For a casual apéro with friends, stick to the basics: olives, nuts, cornichons, and crackers. You can’t go wrong with cheese and charcuterie, or a fresh baguette paired with creamy cheese and salty butter. If you’re feeling adventurous, expand your spread with traditional dishes like ‘tapenade’ (a rich olive spread) or ‘rillettes’ (a pâté-like spread made from pork or fish).
Wines and Spirits: The apéro drink is typically light, designed to whet the appetite for the upcoming meal. Opt for a chilled rosé from Provence or a crisp white wine. If you fancy spirits, ‘pastis’ is a popular anise-flavored drink diluted with water. Kir (white wine with a splash of cassis liqueur) is another delightful option. Remember, the focus is on light and refreshing drinks to complement your bites.
Apéro Ambiance – Setting the Mood
Like so many other French social events, the apéro is casual chic. You don’t need to rent or prepare an elegant party space; a backyard or large balcony are perfect settings for apéro ambiance. Just be sure you have enough room for everyone to spread out comfortably.
In terms of decor, less is more. The goal is for guests to relax and unwind, so avoid fussy decor, fine dinnerware, or pressed linens. Try draping bistro tables with a chic tablecloth and topping them with a vase of fresh flowers for a simple yet polished look. Opt for soft, warm lighting and consider a soft background playlist with French classics or light jazz to bring a Parisian flair to your party.
Hosting Your Apéro
When you have everything set, invite a few close friends or family members. The aim is intimacy and warmth. Begin by serving drinks, followed by the dishes. Let conversations flow naturally, and as the French say, let yourself profiter – relish and enjoy the moment.
Orange Beach Concierge was born out of our love of hosting a great party, event planning and everyday organization combined with Chef David’s drive and desire to be the very best at his culinary craft. We are an Alabama gulf coast-based boutique concierge service offering highly personalized services.