Forget The Wings – Make It A French Themed Cocktail
The apéritif, also known as the apéro, is a sacred institution in France. Basically, it’s a pre-dinner cocktail, often served with salty finger foods. There are also apéro dinatoîres, which replace a sit down meal with a variety of snacks. These fun little cocktail hours are not merely reserved for vacations or special occasions. Many French people enjoy apéros with their friends, colleagues, and families on a regular basis, such as on a run-of-the-mill Friday or Saturday evening.
Pre-study Group Drinking – Seriously?
Years ago, while studying at a French university, I learned just how seriously the French take their apéros. The night before my first exam, a group of my classmates organized a study group. I arrived at the organizer’s door with my notes, books, and a bottle of Diet Coke. To my amazement, one of my classmates opened the door holding a beer in his hand and commented, “Oh great, you’ve brought the rum mixer.” I almost fell over. I thought that I must have the wrong address.
However, soon I got the gist of it and started enjoying my first pre-study apéro. My classmates weren’t trying to get drunk; everyone just had one drink while they enjoyed a half hour of chatting and nibbling before getting down to business. It was very different from all the “cocktail hours” I had previously experienced while studying at a Big 10 university.
The Bare Basics Coming Directly From France
Sharing an apéro with your special someone is even better than having one with your classmates. Below are some ideas from a seasoned apéro veteran that might come in handy as you put together your own French-themed apéritif.
– Fruit juice & sparkling water – for those who don’t drink alcohol
– White wine – try a wine made from the Chardonnay or Sauvignon grape variety
– Rosé wine – the wine of choice during the summer months
– Champagne – a definite crowd pleaser and an elegant touch
– Pastis – Ricard is the most famous brand. Make sure to mix it with water and serve it cold.
– Beer – typically something light, such as Heineken
– Kir normale – a mixture of white wine and cassis (Cassis is a sweet syrup from the Burgundy region of France)
– Kir royal – same recipe as a for a kir normale, but replace the white wine with champagne
Typical French Snacks
– Toast with tapenade (A black olive spread)
– Nuts (cacahuètes…this word seems to spark a giggle out of a lot of French people)
– Dry meat such as salami
– Various cheeses
– Baguette cut into small pieces
– Mozzarella and cherry tomatoes on skewers with chopped fresh basil, salt, and olive oil (if you want to be a real foodie, cold-pressed olive oil is the best)
– Smoked salmon on toast (spread with cream cheese and herb mixture)
– Dried meat spread with cream cheese and rolled in a fresh basil leaf, held together with a toothpick
– Stuffed avocados (tons of variations to this dish – I like mine with black olives, feta, mint, parsley, lemon, cherry tomatoes, and chives drizzled with olive oil)
– Fresh fruit (try serving something special such as fresh figs or passion fruit)
I’ve found in the past that if you design your “menu” carefully, many of the ingredients can be re-purposed in multiple treats (for example, basil, cherry tomatoes, dried meat, and black olives).
Hold On – It’s Not Time For Your Sugar Fix!
While I am a serious sugar-lover (if I let my impulses run free), typical French apéros do not include sugary snacks. Chocolate, candies, cakes, pies, and so on are usually reserved for after dinner with coffee or espresso.
However, if you feel like making something sweet, I suggest digging around the Internet for a homemade brownie recipe that calls for both butter and vegetable oil. (I just discovered this little secret that will make your brownies chewy and give them the crispy out-of-the-box brownie crust on top.) And seriously, who doesn’t enjoy brownies and champagne? Mmmmmm!
Another hit that is easy to make, smells amazing, and goes very well with white wine or champagne is good old banana bread. Why not serve it warm (microwave it) and include a small plate with butter (just in case).
The Art Of The Apéro Meets The Art Of Texting
Preparing your own perfect French style apéro is fun, and it can be a great way to engage your partner in a flirty text exchange leading up to the main event. Now that you have set your menu and packed your fridge with enticing drinks, read on to learn how you can set the perfect mood, and what type of “text strategy” you should follow. French seduction never tasted so good.
Details are very important, even when planning and executing an apéro, because remember we are talking about the “Art of the Apéro” and art requires a certain something-something. Details are the added touch that can create just the right mood to turn your apéro from something mundane into something memorable.
Don’t Forget The Little Details
Here are a few suggestions to make the atmosphere special…and romantic…and a break from just another typical Friday or Saturday night dinner. Remember, the topic of the article is the art of the apéro. So your goal is classy. So, before you uncork the wine, remember to:
– turn off the TV
– turn on some soft lounge music or jazz
– clean your drinking glasses and utensils – make them sparkle!
– use small amounts of a particular color throughout. Napkins, décor, and even the food can be part of your “theme”
– keep the wine or champagne chilled
– light a few candles (easy on the harsh light)
You’re probably thinking that this is pretty standard advice, however, don’t toss it aside – it definitely helps create the type of mood that a romantic apéro deserves!
Now, Turn It Into A Text Fest
So, how can you “text it up a notch” when planning your romantic cocktail? You have two choices:
1. Surprise them.
If you chose this route, don’t hide the fact that you have a surprise brewing for them in the near future. Create anticipation by teasing them with a series of text messages explaining that you are preparing something special, just for them.
Message 1: “Somebody like you deserves to be spoiled…so I’m putting together a special surprise for you tomorrow night.”
Message 2: (assuming they ask what the surprise is) “Hmm curious aren’t we?”
Message 3: “I’m feeling generous (and you’re really cute) so I’ll give you one guess.”
Message 4: “Ok, maybe two if you give you me a kiss when I pick you up.”
2. Include them.
Ask them what type of wine or food they enjoy, and then go out of your way to include their preferences. If you want to really wow them, then add a special touch. For example, if their favorite type of cheese is goat cheese, serve it with some fig jam and encourage them to taste the interesting combination of flavors.
Here’s an idea for getting this text exchange going:
Message 1: “I have a game I’d like to play with you, it’s called ‘my favorite’…”
Message 2: “For example I ask you what your favorite cheese is…”
Message 3: “Dessert? Fruit? Wine?”
Message 4: “Guy/girl?”
Message 5: (assuming they respond to message 4 with “you”) “Good answer. I think we’ve got a winner.”
Message 6: “You can collect your prize on Friday night. 7pm. My place.”
Do You Make Enough Room For Pleasure In Your Life?
Why do the French always seem to happy? Maybe because they take time to enjoy the tasty pleasures in life – such as beautiful art, good food and long conversations
Pleasure in food, conversation, having the right “ambiance” or atmosphere, and of course, the obvious pleasure in enjoying the company of the opposite sex.
A well-planned and executed apéro brings all these important elements together. It also has the added benefit of lasting longer than an actual sit down dinner, and it provides almost limitless conversation topics as you are eating and drinking things that may be new to both of you.
One Final “Art of the Apéro” Thought
While planning your next apéro, spend some time locating fun menu items and interesting recipes. As you plan, don’t forget texting. Before you let your special someone in on the upcoming event, decide if you are going to keep it a secret or if you are going to show them how much you care by asking what they’d like, and then delivering. Becoming a master of the art of the apéro all comes down to being thoughtful.
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