Cocktail recipes for your Apero

Here are just a few suggestions:-

Kir Royale

Popular throughout France, the Kir Royale is pretty much an anytime, anywhere kind of cocktail. Legend has it that Blanc-cassis, a white wine and crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur made in Burgundy) mix was popular in Burgundy. It was renamed a Kir in honour of the much loved Major of Dijon, Felix Kir. No one knows who decided to try Champagne instead of white wine but the idea caught on pretty quickly.

You can of course use any dry sparkling wine or moderately priced Champagne with the Crème de Cassis. The latter is quite sweet so I’ll only add a little to each glass — 2 to 3 teaspoons will do it. Substitutes for Crème de Cassis are Crème de Framboise (raspberry), Chambord or even Crème de Pêche (peach). To make a perfect Kir Royale, add the liqueur (Crème de Cassis) first then fill the glass with the Champagne or sparkling wine. This way, the drink mixes while you pour. Check the taste before serving or adding more cassis.

If you’d like something sweeter try the one below.

Chambord Kiss

This is a recipe from Chambord Liqueur which is produced in the Loire Valley. The recipe was created in 1685 during Louis XIV’s visit to the Chateau of Chambord. The liquer is sold in distinctive round bottles with posh stoppers that look like regal perfume bottles. The deep purple liqueur is flavoured with vanilla and cognac. For a Chambord kiss just mix 2 parts of Irish Cream to one part Chambord and serve over ice.

Le Jardin du Curé

This is our “House Cocktail” and is a spin on the Kir Royale, served in a larger glass with the addition of 3tbsp of  Grand Marnier or Cointreau.

Aperol Spritz

You’ll find the recipe and more here.

Corona Cocktail

This (pictured above) was dreamt up by my beloved in his capacity of Officer in Charge of Drinks during the first lockdown. Instead of Aperol, it uses Limoncello, fresh lemon juice, bruised basil leaves and a twist of lemon.

Death in the afternoon

This was an invention or Ernest Hemingway, a man who’d propped up plenty of bars. It takes a bit of genius and a bit of madness to come up with the idea of mixing madness inducing absinthe with Champagne.  The writer recommended three to five of these drunk slowly from a Champagne glass for optimal effect. Not for the faint hearted the mix consists of “a jigger of absinthe” according to Hemingway and enough Champagne to make it look milky, approx. 1 part absinthe to 3 parts Champagne.

The Sidecar

The Sidecar’s history has long been debated, but one legend involves an American captain who often travelled to a Parisian bar in the sidecar of his friend’s motorbike! Simply shake two parts Cointreau with two parts Cognac and one part lemon juice. Jazz it up with a sugar-rimmed glass.

D’artagnan

Named after the fourth Musketeer, a native of Gascony and the birthplace of Armagnac is made with 1 tbsp Armagnac, 1 tbsp Grand Marnier, 4 tbsp fresh orange juice and 1/2 tbsp simple sugar syrup shaken with ice, strained into a chilled glass and topped up with Champagne.

Cosmopolitan

Lipsmackingly sweet and sour, the Cosmopolitan cocktail of vodka, cranberry, orange liqueur and citrus is a good-time in a glass. Perfect for a party!  Shake 6tbsp vodka, 2 tbsp orange liquer, 4 tbsp cranberry juice, 2 tbsp lime juice over ice and serve with a twist of lime.

For more cocktail recipes, check here. The Barefoot Contessa is the Queen of Cocktail Parties! I’m still waiting for my invite to one.

Equally acceptable at any party on the French Riviera is a perfectly chilled and crisp, local rosé wine.

Cee’s Flower of the Day #44

This is such a lovely challenge, showcasing beautiful flora – flowers, shrubs, trees, bushes and leaves – to raise our spirits on the dullest of days even though we’re on the cusp of spring.

Cee’s challenge is all about bringing a little beauty and colour into our daily lives. Who wouldn’t be in favour of that?

Challenge rules, why not join in?

1.Feel free to post every day or whenever you you feel like it.  You can either post new flower photos or dig back into your archives.

2. Depending on the time of year, you can post any of these types of things for your FOTD.

  • Single flowers
  • Buds
  • Multiple flowers
  • Bouquet
  • Flower fields
  • Wildflowers
  • Tree or bush blossoms
  • Autumn leaves
  • Spring leaves
  • Decorative Cabbage
  • Berries
  • Still life
  • Fake or Silk Flowers

Wordless Wednesday #75

2021’s  Wordless Wednesday is going to feature photos from my trips to Australia. Here’s one from 2019’s #adventuredownunder. Goodness knows when I’ll be able to add to these. I’m kinda hoping to visit again in 2022-23.

Apéro? Yes please…….

Since moving to France, we’ve embraced with alacrity the traditional French institution of aperitif, called an apéro for short. Typically enjoyed with friends and family before dinner, l’heure de l’apéro is typically an hour of ‘apéritif’ drinks  –  wine, champagne, cocktails –  with nibbles. But the most important thing is the company. It’s about friendship, sharing news, keeping in touch. Since we’re currently deprived of company, we’ve been holding them on line or with just the two of us. So what do we typically drink?

Great drinks and cocktails for apéro

Kir is a traditional French aperitif made from white wine and liqueur, usually cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) or Kir Royale served with champagne rather than white wine. We also make them with peach and raspberry liquers. Possibly because we’re close to Italy, Aperol Spritz is a favourite here though I feel you can’t go wrong with either champagne, or a cocktail or two. Though we’ve discovered that our neighbours enjoy spirits, typically enjoyed more as a digestif. Thanks to my late father, my beloved has a wide selection of whiskies which always find favour.

But what I love about an apéro is finding the perfect nibbles to serve. Of course, shops such as my local boulangerie and Picard serve a wide range, but I like to make my own.

The perfect snacks for apéro

The first apéro we ever held was to thank our neighbours for enduring the noise and dust from our renovation. It went down well with everyone asking me where I’d bought my nibbles. I hadn’t, I’d made them.I still do though I’m not adverse to buying one or two items. I generally like to serve a mixture of hot and cold, only one bite sized nibbles and nothing that’ll dirty fingers!

Firstly, nuts, olives and savoury crackers or crisps are popular snacks with apéritifs. I make my own marinade for the olives, toast the nuts  – generally in a savoury and sweet mixture – and serve socca chips rather than crisps, and maybe some fingers of savoury cake. Last weekend’s Musette recipe was Mumbai pastries, these are too hot and spicy for my French friends. However, using a similar method, I’ll make bite-sized pastry twists or elephant ears with parmesan cheese, red and green pesto, anchovies or black olive tapenade.

Smoked salmon blinis, foie gras on brioche toast, truffle butter popcorn, slices of really good salamis, shot glasses filled with a cold soup, savoury choux buns,, small squares of foccacia……to be honest much will depend on what I have in my store cupboards, fridge and freezer. When it comes to warm appetisers, I’ll do mini quiches or mini tortillas, mini pizzas or pissaladière, cocktail sausages glazed with honey and mustard plus small, juicy agen prunes wrapped in bacon.

Of course, how much I serve will depend on whether it’s pre-dinner drinks and nibbles or a full-blown apéro dinatoire party. The latter will require some sweet treats to finish. I’ll generally make brownies served in small cubes, calissons, fresh fruit and cheese board.

Online apéro

These have been our go to saviours during our various lockdowns, generally held on Zoom. We’ll typically try to have a theme say Italian, Spanish tapas or Mexican and pre-agree on what we’re going to drink and eat. We’ve found that it’s a great way to inspire new festive traditions with our favourite people – even when we’re far apart.

Top tips for hosting a virtual apéro

  • Create an atmosphere: You don’t want this to feel like an online work meeting so set the scene and make this an occasion.
  • Send out invites in plenty of time so guests are geared up for whatever you’ve planned.
  • If you’re making cocktails, let everyone know what the ingredients are so they can all join in.
  • Make suggestions for the nibbles, particularly if it’s themed, plus recipes or suggestions where you can buy them. After all, not everyone has time on their hands.
  • Designate a host to make sure someone takes the lead in controlling the chat, less people talking over each other is good.
  • Play a little music in the background for greater ambiance.
  • Steer clear of politics  – that includes Brexit and Covid – as a topic of conversation if you want to keep it fun!

What have you been doing to keep yourselves entertained? Let us know in the comments below.

Cee’s Flower of the Day #43

This is such a lovely challenge from Cee, showcasing beautiful flora – flowers, shrubs, trees, bushes and leaves – to raise our spirits even though spring is just around the corner.

Cee’s challenge is all about bringing a little beauty and colour into our daily lives. Who wouldn’t be in favour of that?

Challenge rules, why not join in?

1.Feel free to post every day or whenever you you feel like it.  You can either post new flower photos or dig back into your archives.

2. Depending on the time of year, you can post any of these types of things for your FOTD.

  • Single flowers
  • Buds
  • Multiple flowers
  • Bouquet
  • Flower fields
  • Wildflowers
  • Tree or bush blossoms
  • Autumn leaves
  • Spring leaves
  • Decorative Cabbage
  • Berries
  • Still life
  • Fake or Silk Flowers

Sunshine’s Macro Monday #79

Someone kindly bought me a bunch of spring flowers!

Sunshine’s Macro Monday Challenge is hosted by Irene a formidable photographer who encourages us to scrutinise the smallest of details by getting up close and personal and bringing someone or something to life in a photograph. It’s a one day challenge without prompts. Feel free to join in and brighten everyone’s Monday.

Cee’s Flower of the Day #42

This is such a lovely challenge, showcasing beautiful flora – flowers, shrubs, trees, bushes and leaves – to raise our spirits on the dullest of days.

Cee’s challenge is all about bringing a little beauty and colour into our daily lives. Who wouldn’t be in favour of that?

Challenge rules, why not join in?

1.Feel free to post every day or whenever you you feel like it.  You can either post new flower photos or dig back into your archives.

2. Depending on the time of year, you can post any of these types of things for your FOTD.

  • Single flowers
  • Buds
  • Multiple flowers
  • Bouquet
  • Flower fields
  • Wildflowers
  • Tree or bush blossoms
  • Autumn leaves
  • Spring leaves
  • Decorative Cabbage
  • Berries
  • Still life
  • Fake or Silk Flowers

Last on the card: February 2021

Here’s my response to Bushboy’s monthly challenge, the last photo taken on my phone in February from my balcony while in weekend lockdown.

The challenge rules are simple:-

1. Post the last photo on your SD card or last photo on your phone at the end of each month.
2. No editing – who cares if it is out of focus, not framed as you would like or the subject matter didn’t cooperate.
3. You don’t have to have any explanations, just the photo will do
4. Create a Pingback to this post or link in the comments
5. Tag “The Last Photo”

French Fancies: Typology

This is where I tell you all about some of my and my beloved’s favourite French brands. This week I’m looking at a relative newcomer. Indeed, the company only recently celebrated its second birthday.

Established by Ning Li, co-founder of Made.com, Typology is a new Paris-based startup that designs and sells quality skincare and cosmetics products directly to consumers. According to Li:

Typology is a relatively ambitious project. We want to challenge FMCG [fast-moving consumer goods] brands with a digital pure player. I spent all my career working in e-commerce. I’ve seen a lot of industries move from offline to online. But some industries, such as cosmetics, food and do-it-yourself, have been migrating to online channels more slowly.

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Typology is now starting to make serious waves in the industry. Its turnover has massively increased during the pandemic. Aside from its cool packaging and branding, it has an incredible product offering. Not only are the formulas amazing, but the brand’s approach to skincare is what makes it stand out. Whereas products from many other French skincare brands risk overwhelming consumers with overly technical and scientific language, Typology seeks to totally demystify (and disrupt) the industry.

Typology Hydrating Serum 3% Hyaluronic Acid + 2% B5

Typology differentiates itself from cosmetics giants with simple lists of ingredients and no dangerous products for your skin or the environment. The company also promises that all its products are vegan, cruelty-free and made in France – all good, right?

So the company ticks all the right boxes but there are countless brands around the globe that make similar promises. The main difference is that Typology doesn’t want to become yet another small-batch beauty brand. The team wants to create an e-commerce giant with multiple sub-brands, hundreds of products and an aggressive e-commerce strategy. Li said:

Unilever, L’Oréal and P&G represent over 50% of the market. And on the other side, you have a ton of independent brands that are quite small and will probably never stand out.

Typology launches different product lines every month each of which has its own concept and its own sub-brand. Everything has been developed in-house.

On its start-up, the company launched three sub-brands. “Raw” is all about mixing products at home. You  order a kit and you get the raw ingredients  – oils, powders, spoons and a small box  – to create your own mask, hair oil, beard oil, etc. You can also order each product individually. Raw products are only made using one ingredient.

The “Lab” product line contains only cosmetic serums with its own set of properties depending on need.

Finally, “Ten” is the basic skincare product range, each of which has less than 10 ingredients. The company is started with face, hand and body moisturisers and moved onto shower gels, shampoos, micellar water and makeup remover etc etc

When it comes to branding and packaging, Typology uses minimalist design to represent transparency and simplicity. It’s also worth noting that Typology is a unisex brand. The company uses recyclable packaging as much as possible by relying on glass and aluminum.

Initially, Typology was only available in France, but the company quickly expanded to other countries following a significant seed round of funding: US $10 million from Alven Capital, Marc Simoncini, Xavier Niel and Firstminute Capital.

Some sub-brands will likely be instant hits while others might not attract that many customers. Typology is taking advantage of its funding to try many different things and experiment when it comes to positioning. It’s going to be interesting to see how the product lineup evolves over the years.

Images courtesy of Typology

Silent Sunday #56

Last year all my photographs were from Australia, this year they are from France. Obviously this photo was taken pre-Covid!