A Guide to French Apéritifs

If you’ve ever been to France, you’ve probably experienced “apéritif culture,” which includes a variety of simple (yet delicious) before dinner drinks and small bowls of savory snacks such as nuts, crackers, crackling pigskin, chips or marinated olives.

The French are very found of their “apéro,” which can take the form of an extended happy hour or one cocktail on the terrace before beginning one’s meal.

 

The purpose of the apéro is to whet one’s appetite before a meal.

 

Most regions of France have their own specialty liquors that, of course, are used to make the typical regional pre-dinner drink.

Here are some of the most common throughout France:

Lillet, from the Bordeaux region of France, is made from a combination of wine and citrus fruit. The combination is steeped in alcohol and barrel-aged.  Though there are versions made from red and white wine, the red seems to be more ubiquitous. Lillet is typically served as is (on the rocks) or as the base of a fruity cocktail.  

There’s something about the simplicity of a Kir that always wins me over. A traditional cocktail of the Burgundy region, a Kir is made from a shot of Crème de Cassis and dry white wine. If you’re feeling fancy, opt for a Kir Royale, made with one part crème de cassis and five parts champagne (serve chilled, in a champagne flute).

The Calvados department of Normandy is known for its highly sought after Calvados brandy. Calvados is made from cider that has gone through an additional double distillation process. It traditionally served neat or on the rocks.

Pastis, an anise-based liqueur, is considered by many to be France’s national apéritif. It is produced in southern part of France, known as the Provence-Côte d’Azur region. Pastis is traditionally consumed by mixing it with three parts chilled water. This transforms the clear liqueur into a milky liquid and allows its flavors to shine through.

 

Flickr: blmurch

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