Unlike the American happy hour—the main purpose of which, it seems to me, is to wait out traffic and perhaps fill up on nasty food—the l’heure de l’apéritif is a sort of gentle musing, accompanied by a glass of something modestly alcoholic such as a vermouth (a fortified wine, flavored with herbs and spices) or a pastis (an anise-flavored liqueur) diluted with water. As likely to be enjoyed at home as it is in a cafe or a bar, this refreshing interlude between the day’s routines and the evening supper doesn’t call for food on the side. The point is to take the edge off your hunger and make you look forward to an unhurried meal.
My favorite aperitifs are a Campari and soda (light on the soda), a chilled Bonal (an ancient, fortified infused wine reminiscent of a Lillet Blanc, only slightly more bitter, that has only recently become available in Atlanta), and a delicate amontillado sherry poured into a proper thin glass. Because I associate Pernod and Ricard (both anise liqueurs that turn cloudy when mixed with water) with vacations in the south of France, I need bright sunshine to enjoy them. Two great local destinations for the aperitif hour are Midtown Promenade’s Apres Diem (apresdiem.com) and Inman Park’s Barcelona Wine Bar (barcelonawinebar.com), where sparkling Spanish Cavas also make an excellent pick-me-up before mealtime.
This article originally appeared in our June 2012 issue.