A to Z : How to become a true French... for the summer
The Apéritif or apéro, is a national sport. « Venez prendre l’apéro », is an invitation to get to know each other better before being invited for dinner. On this occasion, you may get Champagne or Pastis, a close relative of absinth, which people have with ice in the South, and which even the snobbish Parisians will drink provided they are on holiday and can pretend to do as the Romans do. Or you may get a kir, white wine with black current, or Rosé wine. The « apéritif » is supposed to last for about one hour, but as it is a kind of teaser for friendship, it may last longer.
Little snacks or crisp or olives generally come with it. Food soaks up alcohol so when returning the invitation, think of snacks otherwise your host may think you are not generous or wish to get drunk.
Since the French worship drinking and eating, it is like the Lord’s supper, even if it is not the blood of the Christ but rosé. You should not drink until your host gives a toast. You are not supposed to bring a gift to the hostess for aperitif. But eveybody likes a gift and if you do your hostess will have the inevitable sentence that includes « fallait pas », meaning « you shouldn’t ».
Oh by the way, though the French have a reputation for being late, they are on time as far as serious matters like apéritif are involved and your host may not open the bottle before your arrive, making everybody thirsty !
If you behaved well, you may be invited to an « apéritif dînatoire » (dining aperitive), which means a kind of buffet with no fixed seats, which is less formal than a proper dinner but a real meal.
« À la votre » « Santé », cheers !!!