that certain feeling we've come to expect from all-things-Paris.
We yearn for the capricious Gallic mood well painted in books, movies and art.
It's symbolic of what "they" have and what we're looking for -- and why
we get so sentimental about the very idea of Paris.
One of the best ways to catch Paris Fever is to learn
about daily rituals of the locals, the habits that exemplify
this culture we have long romanticized.
Immerse yourself in a new french standard and drink an aperitif.
So what exactly does that mean?
For starters, let's talk about what it's not.
The people sitting on cafe patios sipping red wine and
contemplating the universe are usually tourists.
If you watch the locals, they're generally sipping a beer or
a little glass of white wine, an espresso or perhaps a sparkling water.
Don't confuse this endeavor with the art of the aperitif.
Let me explain.
Wining and dining in France is an honored part of the social graces
and it's smart to trust the locals if you want to learn how to do it best.
One of the easiest ventures you'll ever pursue is to adopt one of their favorite customs -- ordering an aperitif, the drink that comes BEFORE a meal.
This is not the drink you order when you sit down at a café to rest your aching feet.
Re-hydrate with a beer, a Badoit or a citron pressé.
An aperitif stands for something different.
It's a little something -- liquid of course -- that you
drink, soon to be followed by a meal.
This libation can be something classically familiar like a cocktail
or a simple glass of rosé -- or something you've never heard of with
a name that's as hard to pronounce as it is to sip slowly.
And of course, this being France, it's a ritual associated with food.
The aperitif is designed to slow down your inner clock while
it awakens your appetite and taste buds.
And oh yeah, with a little Paris panache thrown in for good measure.
Don't feel like you HAVE to order an aperitif,
especially if you're watching the bottom line.
It's completely optional -- but definitely delightful.
Familiarize yourself with what Paris has on offer so you're ready
as soon as the server arrives, gently prodding,
"Vous desirez un apéritif?".
blue-blood (Daisy Buchanan) to enjoy this customary French ritual.
The tradition of the apéro, the refreshing and relaxing pause
before lunch or dinner, is a gift you'll want to take home with you.
A vacation in Paris is never an excuse for the blowout drinking
we associate with Spring Break, Daytona Beach and the Superbowl.
The aperitif hour is about the very French
tradition of taking your time to enjoy life's little wonders.
A small glass of something delicious can make you
feel like you carry a French passport.
Audrey Hepburn at Happy Hour...... très distingué.
Like a little quinine with your alcohol?
Strange as it sounds, Dubonnet, a fortified wine infused with herbs,
spices and fruit peels, includes a small dose of quinine.
The fever-reducing analgesic-turned-aperitif was first introduced to the world
by Joseph Dubonnet's ambitious entry into a state sponsored contest.
The call to arms came in 1846 as a way to help French Foreign Legionnaires
stomach the awful tasting quinine tonic required to ward off malaria in North Africa.
He somehow pulled off a Mary Poppins, managing to
transform the despised bitter tonic into a flavorsome treat.
Before long, the drink became popular outside the walls of military service.
Dr. Feel-Good says, "Take your medicine!"
A sip of Dubonnet conjures up herbs and spices in fortified wine,
not remotely smacking of any pharmaceutical after-taste.
It's especially well loved when mixed with gin and lemon, said to be
particularly loved by Queen Elizabeth II of England as well as the Queen Mother.
Your favorite mixologist may have different ideas for this cocktail staple
but my personal favorite moniker is the Dubious Manhattan, a clever play on words. Always proud to show off their product, Dubonnet enlisted special talent whose
name you may recognize to kick off one of their very first advertising campaigns.
Henri Toulouse-Lautrec created several iconic Dubonnet posters over a century ago.
More recent efforts have popularized the catchy phrase "Dubo, Dubon, Dubonnet".
Tasty, historic, therapeutic -- all rolled up & poured into one pretty glass.
Dubonnet will welcome you into the appealing world of the aperitif.
Long associated with the south of France, two industrious men put
their famous stamp on this famous taste of sultry Provence.
Jules Pernod and Paul Ricard knew a good thing when they saw it.
One of the most popular drinks, Absinthe, had been banned from store shelves
since 1915 so Jules Pernod sought to successfully re-invent a refreshing & legal
blend that replicated the much loved taste of the banned "poisonous" brew.
Paul Ricard came into the picture years later,
practically inventing the business of branding.
Relentlessly promoting his libation as "the true pastis of Marseille",
Ricard proved there was room for more than one taste
of the popular fermented potpourri.
Each pastis maker carved out his own niche -- only to combine forces
years later (in the 70's!) when the two companies merged
into the worldwide giant, Pernod Ricard, swallowing up
mega-brands such as Seagram and several other big name distillers.
Star anise, fennel, cardamom, pepper, cloves and herbs are
carefully blended to give birth to this miracle milk.
Long associated with the sunny skies of Provence, this refreshing
spirit comes together when cold water is added, creating an
optical illusion of almost biblical proportions.
Drink it cold but don't add ice until after the brew turns its trademark milky white.
One sip and you'll feel the clock stop.
Forget Peter Mayle, you'll be ready for your own
Year in Provence -- in the heart of Paris.
The distinctive square bottle coupled with the
pretty name seduces you from the get-go.
You may already be familiar with it if you enjoy a Margarita now and then,
although many bartenders substitute Triple Sec for the pricier and bolder Cointreau.
First sold in 1875, the distinctly fruity liqueur hails from Anjou,
a region already well respected for its deliciously fruity wine.
Infused with bitter oranges gathered from around the world, Cointreau adds
flair to a number of cocktails and is delicious standing alone as well.
It's no cliché to say all's well that ends well when the bartender includes this irresistible taste in his recipe for a Gold Margarita, Side Car, or Cosmopolitan -- preferably not all at the same time....
As their ad campaign reminds us... "Be Cointreauversial."
Sounds like a good start for an exchange of ideas and where better
to enter the fray than the Paris of legendary discourse.
So choose your favorite literary (or not) salon and get inspired.
The most mysterious of aperitifs, this one is best defined as
a bottle of liquid gold --- or should I say green.
Invented by Carthusian Monks (yes, they still exist), the exact recipe
is purportedly prepared by only three monks at a time, pledged
to a vow of silence, carefully passing their secrets to the next generation.
Chartreuse infuses a heady blend of some 130 herbs, plants and flowers
gathered in the Chartreuse Mountains near Grenoble.
Distinctly pungent, it's usually served straight up although
you may discover a few cocktails that bravely add a drop at a time.
This centuries old formula, first sold en masse in 1884 from a recipe
allegedly perfected since 1605, is not only delicious but also
the inspiration for a special color in your box of crayons -- chartreuse, of course.
Just make sure it doesn't inspire you to go all Katy Perry on us at the hair salon.
You can choose Green or Yellow, the latter being slightly milder and sweeter.
You'll taste herbs, flowers and grass.
What a deal!
Drink your vitamins and take a vow of silence.
Brimming with elderflowers, little white Alpine flowers hand picked in
springtime, this is a new and fashionable taste sensation for cocktail-lovers.
Expressly designed to freshen up adult beverages, St-Germain
has gained quite a following since it debuted in 2007.
Said to work especially well in martinis,
it makes you wonder what 007 would think.
THE French vermouth that's practically synonymous with the martini.
Conceived in 19th century Languedoc, its southern french charm stems
from a blend of flavors beginning with the local picpoul de pinet wine,
a variety of regional herbs and a long siesta in oak casks.
Noilly Prat is available in both red and white.
Its original french dry white can be found in every chef's kitchen cabinet, prized
for its complicated flavors that add a perfect touch to many treasured recipes.
Sometimes tough to find in Paris, this is one of my personal favorites.
Lillet Blanc and Lillet Rouge are distinctly different but equally delicious.
Serve it very cold, perhaps with a slice of orange.
I'm still trying to find the recently released rosé label and hope the company's
recent marketing push will make it a staple on EVERY aperitif menu in Paris.
It's a big hit with cocktail connoisseurs who add it to their favorite recipes
although I personally can't stomach the thought of diluting this Bordeaux-born wine. Creatively infused with hints of honey, exotic fruits and vanilla,
Lillet requires no other enhancement.
Allegedly, it's one of Michelin starred chef Alain Ducasse's favorite drinks.
Jackie Kennedy loved it, too, so if you gain a taste for it, you're in good company. Oh dear, it was also Hannibal Lector's drink of choice......and we all know
he had a taste for the interesting........
Pineau des Charentes
This one is as hard to find in Paris as it is to pronounce
correctly but it's well worth the effort.
Hailing from the Charente region of France, Pineau is a fortified
regional wine from the same good green fields that give us cognac.
With a pedigree like that, it's certainly worth a try.
If you can't find it, you may want to check the train schedule
and head for La Rochelle -- It's that good.
Pineau des Charentes.
I hope your pronunciation skills are better than mine.
There are plenty more choices in the world of the aperitif -- Suze,
Kir, champagne ...... there's room in France for a dozen more
but none have the history of our next feature:
The legend is back.
You, too, can say oui to the intoxicating mystique that inflamed
dozens of artists and writers in days gone by.
It plays first chair in the lore of French painters, composers and authors.
It may even bring out your own inner Vincent van Gogh (no knives please)
when the legendary green fairy pays you a visit.
Hippocrates prescribed absinthe for menstrual pain and
Pliny the Elder recommended it for a cure for bad breath.
What are you waiting for?
Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso
The list of creatively driven admirers is long.
First sold as a medicinal elixir, the unruly spirit originated in Switzerland.
It quickly captured the heart of France with its appeal to all social classes.
As English poet Ernest Dowson once quipped,
"I understand that absinthe makes the tart grow fonder."
p.s. he died of alcoholism at the young age of 32.
Wormwood got all the blame for absinthe's hallucinogenic reign of terror. Supposedly the cause of mental illness and degenerate crimes -- or was it
just the punching bag for stinkin' bad drunken behavior -- the herbal
tonic seemed to inspire major-league creativity.
Great paintings and poetry weren't enough to keep authorities from banning it,
insisting it was the catalyst behind all the great criminal acts of the day.
But it's back again, ready to corrupt someone new.
I personally like the accessories.
The special slotted spoon, the sugar cube, the wait....drip, drip, drip.....
No wonder you're numb by the time you finish the glass.
It's pure genius really.
After all, as french playwright Jean Anouilh once wrote,
"Everything ends this way in France... everything, weddings, christenings, duels, burials, swindlings, diplomatic affairs -- everything is a pretext for a good dinner."
Yes, the aperitif is a wonderful pretext for a good dinner.
À votre santé!