Paris: Happy Hour à la française

The apéro is a beloved Parisian ritual. Here’s where to head for a preprandial tipple in the French capital this summer.

Cheval Blanc Paris’s head barman Florian Thireau. (© Franck Hamel/Cheval Blanc Paris)

The heure de l’apéro is an almost sacred tradition in Paris, a magical hour in the late afternoon or early evening when friends meet for a pre-dinner apéritif — or apéro, as it’s called colloquially — and a few accompanying snacks. The drink itself should be light, preferably dry, and ideally modestly alcoholic, as it’s meant to whet the appetite without overpowering the senses. While that can mean a chilled glass of white wine or champagne, a true Parisian aperó has more flair and color — Campari, Lillet, or Dubonnet, say; an Aperol spritz or anything else that will easily segue into the dinner that follows.

In summer, outdoor terraces are a popular place to convene for an aperó. The most glamorous of those at the moment is at Le Tout-Paris on the seventh floor of the new Cheval Blanc Paris hotel. Here, guests can toast some of the finest views in the city (Notre-Dame and the Eiffel Tower included) with a Tramonto, the restaurrant’s twist on the classic French 75 with Moët & Chandon champagne, gin, lemon, sugar, and Peychaud bitters.

The Palais Garnier as seen from the terrace of Café de la Paix. (Photo: Jerome Galland)

Among the iconic Parisian brasseries that have been refurbished recently is Café de la Paix at the Hôtel InterContinental Le Grand. Long the epitome of 19th-century luxury and literary fashion (everyone from Zola to Proust drank here), it remains grand in every sense, with an interior adorned by ornate gilding and fluted columns. But on a warm summer evening, you’ll want to enjoy your apéro — try the sophisticated Spritz à la Française, with Lillet, tonic, and a cucumber slice — on its equally iconic sidewalk terrace, which looks out to the resplendent Palais Garnier, home to the Paris Opera.

An apéro on the terrace of Café de la Paix. (Courtesy of Café de la Paix)

A short walk away is another classic brasserie, the 1918 art deco Vaudeville, which serves a fine St.-Germain Spritz (elderflower liqueur, Riccadonna Prosecco, lemon, and fresh mint) on a terrace overlooking the Place de la Bourse. But for a tipple under the trees, head to Petit Plisson aux Tuileries, a casual gourmet “kiosk” that opened last summer in the middle of the Jardin des Tuileries. Peak pleasure here comes with sipping a spritz or artisanal ale as the late-afternoon sun begins to cast long shadows across the garden. A no-reservations policy and hundreds of chairs almost guarantee a table.

For those seeking a more intimate setting, the Bulgari Bar at the months-old Bulgari Hotel Paris exudes cozy Roman chic, with a black granite floor, lacquered walls, and backlit onyx bar. It also offers a fuller, Italian version (aperitivo) of apéro hour, which means small focacce, charcuterie, and other nibbles are served with your drink — ideally, the Bulgari Cocktail, made with gin, Aperol, and fresh orange, pineapple, and lime juices. This may be a Milan-inspired cocktail, but it tastes right at home in Paris.


This article originally appeared in the June/August 2022 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“French Twist”).

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