Apéritif Gets a Twist in the Time of Social Distancing

By Lindsey Tramuta

It’s the end of the day in France, which can only mean one thing: it’s l’heure de l’apéritif, a pre-dinner drinking tradition that has remained a pillar of French culture for generations. But with COVID-19 keeping people at home and the usual gathering places tightly shut, the ritual needed to adapt to the times. 

Aperitif Social Distancing

In this article

Apéritif is a beloved daily ritual that marks the joyful transition from day to evening. The term itself derives from the Latin aperire, “to open”, and symbolizes the rousing of both appetites and evenings, usually among friends and family. Most importantly, however, this post-work period of relaxation is essential to French social connection, whether it takes places on the terrace of a local café or within the comfortable confines of a friend’s home. But with COVID-19 keeping people at home and the usual gathering places tightly shut, the ritual needed tweaking. Read below to see how locals have shifted their daily celebrations! 

Virtual gatherings 

The next best thing to sitting elbow-to-elbow in a bar with friends? Seeing them on screen for a nightly apéro, setup over Zoom, Skype, Houseparty, Google Hangout or FaceTime. What’s more, organizing regular chats imposes a hard stop time in a work-from-home day that could easily extend well into the wee hours. The key is to keep the whole affair easy: light uplifting conversation or maybe a game or two to pair with stress-free and comforting drinks that can be whipped up quickly. For some that may be a cold lager straight from the fridge, for others it’s ‘Quarantini’, a twist on the classic martini.  

Neighborly social distancing 

Both in apartment buildings in all of France’s big cities and in quiet residential neighborhoods in the countryside, those isolating in place have taken this prolonged period of time to get to one another better. In some cases, they’ve agreed to cautiously extend their circles to include one another. In Paris, that means neighbors meeting in stairwells and leafy courtyards, masks on, to socialize at a safe remove. Everyone brings their own drink and a snack before heading back into their homes. Elsewhere in France, it’s been the equivalent of the driveaway Happy Hour as seen in the United States and the U.K, with neighbors from the same block pulling up chairs to the curb or in their yards and chatting, beers in hand; apart but together! 

Making it interactive 

When the virtual talks with friends run their course, there are workshops, masterclasses, and tastings to keep evenings exciting. Le Cheese Geek, a cheese tasting and pairing company, usually hosts their dégustations in a 17th century vaulted cellar beneath the Fromagerie Jouannault in the Marais with groups of ten people at most. With everyone stuck in their homes, founder Fabrice Gepner brought the experience online in April, co-hosting a giant tasting with Meilleur Ouvrier de France cheesemonger François Robin for more than 200 virtual participants. MOF Robin enthusiastically guided participants through each of the five farm-fresh cheeses shipped out in advance while throwing in fun quizzes to make the experience interactive. Because why not carry out the apéro tradition AND learn something at the same time?  

Making it special 

Winding down after a long day on a computer doesn’t inspire everyone to begin their evening behind a screen. Instead, some have turned l’apéritif into a special nightly ritual just with the individuals in their household. While many worked through their own collections of fine spirits and wines, others looked to one of the many specialty shops and restaurants offering special apéritif deals. Check out the Find Products page in order to learn more about preparing an apéro-at-home the French way. Ready for a drink? 


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