Make apéro time special in France

When it comes to appetisers Marie Asselin is the queen of the finger food. Here she reveals her secrets and provides three great recipes

My friends and I exchange this question every week. Calling (or more often now, texting) a friend to ask, “Will you come visit for l’apéro?” is a way to invite them over to have a drink and some bites before dinner. Often, l’apéro lasts only a couple of hours, usually from five to seven, but sometimes it’ll last all through the night, evolving into a casual dinner.

L’apéro” is short for l’apéritif, which is the name of a drink served in the early evening to whet your appetite. In French cities, people have l’apéro in restaurants and bars, with servers bringing salty snacks to go with your drinks, but this tradition of getting together after work to relax with a drink before dinner is also a full-blown ritual that is often hosted at home, accompanied by a variety of bites or appetizers that can be generous enough to become dinner itself.

L’apéro is in my blood: all through my childhood, I watched my parents host it. Even when my mother hosted a sit-down dinner, she’d always first gather guests in the living room for l’apéro. She’d ask my dad to help with the drinks while she served crackers and pâtés she’d saved specifically for such occasions.

When I was a young adult, l’apéro was pretty much code for “house party.” I’d get a bunch of friends over and we’d drink and nibble our way through the night against a background of very loud music.

When I lived in Paris for ...

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