The practice of drinking an aperitif, or apero, before a meal originates in ancient Rome, where drinking a small amount of wine before a meal was traditional to stimulate the appetite.
The aperitif as we know it today began to gain popularity in the 19th century. At this time, the French bourgeoisie would gather to drink and socialize before dinner. The aperitif became an important ritual in French culture.
Several new aperitifs were created during this period, such as Lillet, Dubonnet, and Campari, which became popular. The aperitif began to take on a more refined and elegant character.
After the Second World War, new aperitifs such as Aperol and Pernod became popular. The tradition of enjoying an aperitif before dinner continued to evolve. In the 1960s, the French aperitif became a trend. The French began to explore new ways to enjoy their aperitifs, such as mixing them with different types of juice, soda, or sparkling wine.
Today, the French aperitif is an important part of French culture. It continues to be enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds. The tradition has also spread to other countries, and aperitifs have become popular worldwide.
You’ll want to have a good mix of drinks, from classic French aperitifs to more modern easy to prepare cocktails. Discover some of the most popular aperitifs and the unique flavours they offer and how to properly serve and the best accompaniments to pair with them.
Traditionally made with crème de cassis (a blackcurrant liqueur) and Champagne.
Perfect for aperitifs, brunch, and special occasions, it is often served with Hors d’oeuvres such as cheese, crackers, and smoked salmon and also can be paired with desserts like chocolate mousse.
An aniseed flavoured liqueur popular in the south of France. It is made from a blend of herbs and spices, including star anise, fennel, and liquorice root.
The traditional way to serve Pastis is to pour the liqueur over ice in a small glass and then add water to taste. The water will cause the Pastis to become cloudy and appear milky. You can also add syrups such as mint, grenadine or orgeat for a sweeter taste.
It’s also a common ingredient in cocktails, such as the ‘Pastis Sour,’ made by mixing Pastis with lemon juice and sugar.
It’s commonly served with a light snack like olives, nuts, or charcuterie.
Made from grape juice and Cognac. It originates from the Charente and Charente-Maritime regions in the west of France. It is produced by blending grape must (unfermented juice) with Cognac eau-de-vie (a clear brandy) and aged for at least 18 months. The result is a sweet, fruity, and smooth drink with an alcohol content of around 16-22%. Serve chilled with ice.
Pineau des Charentes is protected by an AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) designation, which ensures that it is produced according to traditional methods and only from specific regions.
It pairs well with cheese, nuts, chocolate, and desserts.
A fortified wine from the Roussillon region in southern France, it is made from the Muscat grape. It is typically sweet and fragrant, with a floral aroma and flavours of apricot, peach, and honey. It is produced by fermenting the grapes and fortifying the wine with a small amount of grape spirit. The wine is then aged in oak barrels for several years. The result is a rich, sweet, and complex wine with an alcohol content of around 14-17%. It can be enjoyed chilled as an aperitif or as a dessert wine.
Muscat de Rivesaltes is protected by an AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) designation, which ensures that it is produced according to traditional methods and only from specific regions.
It pairs well with fruit, cheese, desserts, and chocolate.
Genepi is a type of liqueur made from the Artemisia plant’s flowers, also known as genepi or genepy. The Artemisia plant is native to the alpine regions of Europe, and the liqueur is particularly popular in the French and Italian Alps. It is distilled from the plant’s flowers and then aged for several months to develop its complex flavour. The resulting liqueur is typically yellow or green in colour.
It has a unique, herbaceous, and slightly bitter taste, with notes of pine and menthol. Genepi is generally served as an aperitif and is often enjoyed chilled in a small glass, sometimes with a little water to cut the alcohol. It is also used as a digestif, which aids digestion after a big dinner.
Genepi pairs well with cheese, nuts, and chocolate.
A fortified wine flavoured with various herbs, spices, and botanicals, vermouth is made by infusing wine with botanicals and then fortifying it with a small amount of spirit. Dry vermouth has a less sweet taste, with prominent herbal and floral notes. It’s usually served chilled or over ice and is often used as an ingredient in cocktails, such as Martinis.
When it comes to serving dry vermouth, it is typically served chilled or over ice, in a wine glass, or in a cocktail glass. It’s often garnished with a lemon or olive. It’s a perfect drink before a meal to stimulate the appetite.
Vermouth is a great complement to salty and savoury snacks, and is a perfect match for olives, nuts, and cheeses, and it also pairs well with seafood and charcuterie.
Ratafia is a liqueur made from fruit, wine, and spirit. The fruit can vary but is typically made from cherries, apricots, or peaches. Ratafia is made by macerating the fruit in the wine and then distilling it with a small amount of spirit. The result is a sweet and fruity liqueur with a strong fruit flavour. The alcohol content of Ratafia is typically around 18-22%.
Ratafia is a versatile drink that can complement a variety of flavours and dishes. Best served chilled, it is a perfect match for desserts, fruits, and chocolate. It also pairs well with cheese, particularly soft and creamy ones.
Made from apple juice and Calvados (apple brandy from the Normandy region in France), it’s a blend of fresh apple juice with Calvados that is aged for a minimum of 18 months. The result is a sweet, fruity, and smooth drink with a unique apple flavour, and an alcohol content of around 17-20%.
It’s protected by an AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) designation, ensuring it is produced according to traditional methods and only from specific regions.
Pommeau de Normandie is typically served chilled and is often served in a small glass and can be garnished with a piece of apple.
When it comes to pairing with food, Pommeau de Normandie is a perfect match for cheese, particularly strong and aged ones.
Made from a blend of Bordeaux wines and citrus liqueurs, the wine is aged in oak barrels for several months to develop its flavour. It has a light, crisp and refreshing taste with citrus and honey notes. Lillet Blanc is typically served chilled and has an alcohol content of around 16-18%. It’s often garnished with a slice of citrus fruit such as orange or lemon.
It pairs well with light snacks and appetizers such as fruit, cheese, or canapés.
Picon is a type of bitter orange liqueur popular in the Alsace and Lorraine regions. It infuses a neutral spirit with orange peel, gentian root, and other botanicals. It has a strong, bitter-orange flavour with a hint of sweetness. Picon is typically served as an aperitif, mixed with beer (Picon Bière) or sparkling water (Picon Club). It has an alcohol content of around 15-20%.
Last but not least, the popular Italian aperitif cocktail made with Aperol, Prosecco, and soda water. It’s a refreshing and easy-to-drink cocktail that has become increasingly popular recently in Italy and other countries, such as France.
To make an Aperol Spritz, you will need the following:
To prepare it:
Serve in a large wine glass. It’s a light and refreshing cocktail that’s easy to drink and a great choice for those who prefer less strong drinks.
The Aperol Spritz pairs well with light snacks such as olives, nuts, or cheeses when paired with food. It also goes well with seafood, salads, and light dishes such as sushi or ceviche.
Plan the menu around seasonal ingredients: Fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs are available in the summer and are perfect for light and refreshing aperitif foods.
Create a comfortable outdoor seating area: Set up a shaded area with comfortable seating, such as lounge chairs or a seating area with cushions and throw pillows.
Offer a mix of hot and cold foods: Summer evenings can be cool, so provide a variety of warm and cold foods to keep guests comfortable.
Use various serving dishes: Offer a mix of finger foods, mini plates, and small bowls to encourage guests to sample multiple dishes.
Offer a mix of sweet and savoury dishes to please different palates.
Set the mood with string lights, lanterns, or candles create a warm and inviting atmosphere.
Provide a place for guests to place drinks and plates: Having a small table or tray to put their drinks and dishes is a great way to encourage mingling and discourage guests from holding plates and glasses the whole time.
Be sure to have a plan for cleaning up before, during, and after the party so that you can enjoy the party yourself.
Add some wow factor to your food with these ten quick food ideas for your own aperitif party, along with their drink pairings:
Prosciutto wrapped melon – Wrap thin slices of prosciutto around chunks of cantaloupe or honeydew melon. Serve on a platter with a sprinkle of chopped basil. Pair with a chilled rosé or a white wine.
Crostini with Ricotta and Honey – Toast baguette slices and top with ricotta cheese and honey. Sprinkle with a little bit of sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Pair with dry white wine or Champagne
Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese – Spread cream cheese on top of small crackers or bread slices with a piece of smoked salmon and a sprig of dill. Pair with a dry rosé or a white wine.
Grilled Vegetable Skewers – Skewer a variety of vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Grill until tender and serve with a side of balsamic glaze or pesto. Pair with a white wine or a Kir Royale.
Fried Olives Stuffed with Goat Cheese – Stuff olives with a mixture of soft goat cheese and herbs such as thyme and rosemary. Roll in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs and fry until golden. Serve with a side of lemon wedges. Pair with a Pastis or Pineau des Charentes.
Stuffed Mushroom – Remove the mushroom’s stem and add a stuffing of breadcrumbs, cheese, and herbs. Bake it in the oven until golden brown. Pair with white wine or a Champagne
Gougères – These are small choux pastry puffs filled with cheese. They can be served warm and are best enjoyed with dry white wine or Champagne.
Mini Quiches – Make mini quiches with various fillings such as bacon and onion, smoked salmon and dill, or spinach and feta. Pair with a rosé or a white wine
Devilled Eggs – Hard boil eggs, peel, and slice in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks and mix them with mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and herbs. Spoon the mixture back into the egg whites. Pair with a glass of dry white wine or a Pastis
Cheese Platters – Various cheese platters, such as a selection of soft, hard, and blue cheese. Serve with a variety of crackers, fruits, and nuts. Pair with a rosé, white wine, or a Pineau des Charentes