Cinq à sept is a Quebecois term for cocktail hour. The term is not generally used in France, but I find it a delightful turn of phrase, which literally refers to the hours between five and seven pm. A time to unwind after work and enjoy a drink with friends before dinner.
This is called apéro or short for apéritif in France. It’s the same concept with a different name. They do it in Italy too. And what it is, is truly fantastic. I am in love with this tradition for so many reasons, and I must admit, they do it so much better here.
In Canada, my experience is this really is simply a “cocktail hour”. In France and Italy, it’s cocktails plus, plus. Lots of nibbles and treats. For me it signals the end of the work day, time to relax, time with friends and family and time to start prepping dinner. And because you’ve had a little nosh, there is no need to rush to eat at 6:30. You can leisurely prepare your dinner and happily eat sometime around 8:30 or 9pm. Most North Americans are spinning in their socks thinking about eating that late, but trust me—if you’re not eating a whole leg of lamb or half a cow, it’s really not too late. After an apéro, you don’t need to eat as much. What I love about this is it makes the entire evening about food, wine and hanging out with friends. There is no PlayStation or time to watch TV. It’s about nourishment, socializing and quality time. It’s perfection.
You’ve heard me say many times I don’t have a sweet tooth. Before I left for France I cooked dinner for a Montreal restauranteur who mentioned he suffered the same affliction. He couldn’t care less about dessert. Then he said, “It’s because you drink as much wine as I do.” He was absolutely correct, the wine has replaced the sugar in my diet. And I am not remotely disappointed or worried about this. I would rather have more food and wine and no dessert. I’m more than happy to pass off the chocolates and cakes to the teetotallers—I get so much more profound pleasure from the complexity and beauty that is wine.
So here’s to embracing the concept of the apéro wherever you are. As they say, santé, salud, cin cin, prost, sláinte, l’chaim and na zdrowie!