It’s tough for me to say what I like most about l’heure de l’apéro. First and foremost, I love that there is a special time set aside for such a marvellous activity. It has a much more formal and serious tone to it than the anglicised ‘Happy Hour’.
Indeed l’apéro almost certainly involves alcohol of some sort, whether it be a refreshing Ricard en terrasse on a summers afternoon, or sophisticated cocktails in a darkened salon in St-Germain. But for me, the real delight is in the details.
It’s the accompanying bowl of olives vertes, or perhaps some freshly popped popcorn. It’s the colourful collection of Haribo bonbons that sit jauntily on the edge of your mojito. And if we venture out of the bar and pub scene and into the world of apéro en famille the results are even more spectacular.
If it is a special occasion, like Noël or someone’s birthday, or indeed a particularly warm Wednesday, there will likely be champagne involved. As this is my personal drink of choice, I’m not too fussed on confirming the legitimacy of the celebration.
But what really sets this type of apéro apart is the sheer range and amount of accompanying snacks. There is everything from toasts spread with foie gras, to delicately sliced saucisson, to all manner of flavoured biscuits. Many of which curiously resemble Twisties yet taste of peanut butter. My favourite amongst these (and yes, I’m suitably ashamed to admit this on a public forum) is the university-student-on-a-budget-favourite, Monster Munch.
Whilst I’m led to believe there is a product of the same name in the UK, the French version is distinct in quite a few ways. As one dedicated chip reviewer puts it, “The crisps are airy and insubstantial in the middle [and] flavoring is more suggestive than evocative”. In short, these are not a snack for the sophisticated. But I just can’t get enough.
I find they work particularly well when combined with a glass of champagne!
Mojito image courtesy of Pixelicus on Flickr.