Advice for an Apero Virgin

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With the warmer weather (hopefully) coming and my complete lack of a social life I have decided finally to bite the bullet/face my fears/take the neighbours by the horns and have a little 'event' once it's pleasant enough to be outside (more space & can lock boisterous dogs inside if need be). But I'm not confident as to correct form.

1. Are there any basic dos or donts?

2. What drinks would (especially the French) neighbours expect to be available?

3. I don't cook - at all - what 'nibbles' should be available?

4. Is specifying a time, say between 6pm and 8pm, acceptable? I have a kid to think about.

5. Just help and advice generally please!

try not to worry about it firstly!

just have a selection of wine, and soft drinks, plus pastis.

crisps nuts & other nibbles you can buy.

and yes if you don't want it to go on all night, specify a time :-)

Yay, I'm on the right track then. Thank you.

I love the memories of our embarrassing first aperos

I think our first one we stayed till gone 9pm as we didn't realise some people were staying later to eat dinner and we should have gone at around 8.

We did aperos and made practically a full meal...

Now I know aperos is a couple of drinks nibbles and then say thanks and leave, the kids make it easier to do this.

Definitely have Pastis and and an apero wine, maybe a beer option too, some kir blackcurrant or other flavour can go down well I find with a blanc de blanc like cremant de limoux.

For nibbles I like olives, ham slices with boursin inside then rolled and sliced into small rolls), gressini sticks with parma Ham wrapped round, green/black olive or tomato or aubergine tapenade, on tiny slices of French bread (toasted or not), cachew nuts. These are the staples I always have in just in case and then I add other bits depending on how much time I have to prepare.

Sometimes if I'm feeling a bit more fancy I might do some prawns with aoili, chicory with roquefort or goats cheese and fig jam.

Go for it. I remember our first aperos with our first french neighbours when we had hardly any furniture and I had to serve the aperos on the fireplace, we only had 4 chairs and that was it. We sat around the fireplace even though it was summer. It was a very strange evening but funny memories.

Have fun!

Great menu ideas - I could cope with those - and the drinks list. Thanks Suzanne.

We held our first apero for neighbours last summer. We were a bit anxious but it went really well. We did various nibbles but the most popular was spicy chorizo sliced and then simmered for an hour in red wine. Delicious. If there is any of the marinade left then use it to liven up tomato-based sauces.

Certainly in our area of the Charente the 'official' times are 18:00-20:00. As others have said, if you stay after 8pm you would probably be staying for an evening meal.

Thank you, David. That's reassuring. I think because I work from home and any 'excursion' is literally to the supermarket and back I've actually lost some confidence interacting with people so it's a little stressful but time to bite the bullet. I like the sound of that chorizo. That will be going on the list.

Excellent. So I have the timing about right then and two hours is plenty for the hounds to have to be locked inside the house if they're annoying people.

Depends who it is of course and how many people. My first wife, a very determined socialiser, used to divide people into family, As, Bs and Cs. on lists she kept! Here it's taher more informal. For an Apero evening in the garden we start earlier these days, usually around 6pm. Drinks: pastis (not many these days), whisky available (but only the French seem to drink it), maybe G and T, maybe even rum (tropical family!), white wine, red wine, rose wine. Few drink red wine at an apero. Cassis. maybe a few bubbles but cheapo. I think that bought things like crisps are a bit boring. Maybe some nuts with a crisp white wine. For snacks I tend to buy baguettes or thin round pain campagne, slice very thinly, spread with salted breton butter, thinly sliced boiled eggs, morsels of chorizo, inverted half a tiny tomato, salt and freshly ground pepper. Altenative same bread and butter, rillettes de poisson or coquilles St Jacques, tiny morsel of peeled lemon with a sprinkling of aneth. Another favourite is cold morsels of chiken cooked in a tandoori or similar sauce, drizzled in lemon and sprinkled with parsley. These snacks look colourful and tasty, and go down well. Many Bretons say they don't like spicy food but the chicken goes very fast. Quite a few local French friends serve small pieces of hot pizza. An apero is really more than what in the UK would be called "drinks" and if you go to the trouble to make your own snacks you get brownie points. The frozen things you see in supermarkets never seem to work very well. You could get a pain surprise from your boulanger as well.

Hi Val

I do 'pigs in blankets' and dates wrapped in ham. Easy to pop in the oven at the last minute. Also mini quiches or cheese and onion pies done in a bun tin. You will get extra brownie points with the neighbours by doing something homemade.

The chicken pieces are easy to do if you use a roasting bag and a shop bought mix ... I often use whatever packet is on special offer at the supermarket. It comes with its own bag (saves on the washing up!).

The most important thing for you is to relax on the evening and not allow yourself to become too stressed about it going well. I hope you enjoy the experience.

I know me, Elaine - I'll probably do the "Oh just half a glass" to calm my nerves before the event and be completely bladdered by the time people actually arrive, lol.

You might also make sure you have whisky available ! viz

Being attached to an intellectual french lady, it was made quite clear that apéros started at six or seven and lasted for an hour.
For canapés, google apéro dinatoire. Most decent supermarkets will have ready made selections.
For drinks, a fruit punch and kir with sirop de cassis or crème de cassis (crème is alcoholic). Kir Royale is with sparkling wine.
In the Charente, you may be offered Cognac with Schweppes in tall glasses! This seems to be a favourite of the Conseil Général, at functions.
Also in les Charentes, you will find Pineau des Charentes, which is a blend of cognac and grape juice, and not wine, as some expats assume, thinking it is similar to sherry or port.
In Normandy and Brittany, you will find Fine de Maine, which is a version made with calvados and apple juice. Sometimes called Pommeau de Normandie.
Armagnac is a “brandy” made in the departments of Gers, des Landes and Lot-et-Garonne. Contrary to popular expat belief, it is made from wine.
If you have invited “unassimilated” expats, then you may have to have some gin and tonics on hand.
Drinks served at apéros are restricted to apéritifs, which do not spoil the wine served with the following meals, so serving straight sprits is a no no.
Rarely do apéros involve some of the guests staying behind for a meal.
If you are pally with locals who have their own private vines, you may be presented with bootleg versions of the various eaux des vie, some of which are made from cherries or plums, which are exceptionally strong: so beware!
If you are serving foie gras, you will need to have on hand, Montbazillac or a Sauterne.
Traditionally it is not good manners to bring a “bottle”, when arriving for apéros or, for that matter, dinner: one brings a small gift.
The French have a saying “come with your hands in your pockets”! Bringing a bottle is interpreted as indicating the host can’t afford to supply the drink!
This “bring a bottle” business, seems to be confined to the english speaking world!

I have one set of stubbornly unassimilated expats - they have little interest in the French way of life so if they want G&T they can bring their own, lol - yes, I think I'll keep it relatively small and jolly. I think especially with the French neighbours they'll appreciate any effort I make really and are not put off by the fact there is a child around. Yeah, I can do this.

Here in Beaujolais it is simple and fast - most use local salami and Pate en Croute (some may add a cheese), then chrisps, olives, nuts etc. Drinks seem to be Cremant with Creme de Cassis etc if wanted - and away we go.

I forgot to mention that a traditional Vermouth is also used for apéros, such as the french Noilly-Prat, the "nah Luton Airport" Compari, and Cinzano.

On the way down from Cherbourg, I often call in to Partick, at Saint-Joseph (just out of Cherbourg), and he tells me that Crémant de Bordeaux is probably the best. Marie-Elisabeth favours Crémant de Limoux, but Patrick reckons it is too sweet.

Since I'm about to record my weekly radio programme, I'll devote some time to Apéros etc.

Ahh, the good old dilemma of never being able to satisfy everything's peculiar taste preferences. If they're only there for a couple of hours they can make do methinks.

In our experience while the French tend to offer a range of drinks, they are quite happy just to be offered fizz in return. We often just have Crémant de Limoux (or something similar) and simple food. Generally French guests will talk non stop for two hours and then go home. Makes entertaining very easy.

We find that our neighbours in Brittany enjoy our salami wrapped croq'vert (gherkins) and a glass of Rivesaltes, but failing that, Scotch whisky goes down well!