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Aperitif Dinatoire: An Informal and Classy Dinner Party

As the holidays approach I wanted to wish you all a very happy holiday. The articles that will finish 2014 will help to inspire you to end the year with taste: tasty food and drink, taste for memories, taste for spending good times around a table. This article has been reedited from its original publication date in 2011.

A Typical French Aperitif Choice: smoked salmon canapé

aperitif dinatoire

Aperitif Dinatoire:  Informal, Classy, Tasty and Convivial

aperitif dinatoire

What is an Aperitif Dinatoire?

It is hard to accurately translate apéritif dînatoire but think of it as a big drinks and nibbles party, or a walking buffet, an informal appetizer cocktail dinner. It is a great way to have friends over and not feel that pressure to plan a big gourmet menu with a formal sit down dinner. The cost is usually lower too, which is another reason it is popular.

Why is this informal Aperitif Dinatoire so popular?

An apéritif dînatoire is an increasingly popular way to invite friends over for an affordable evening of drinks and nibbles. A party with sufficient amounts of cocktails and food so that guests leave feeling full, like they have eaten dinner (dînatoire), satiated with the perfume of conversation and food. Sometimes you can have an informal evening with everyone bringing filling appetizer food to share. However, this is less common in France.

Read more how the French ‘do’ an apéritif dînatoire here:

How the French ‘do’ an aperitif dinatoire

Imagine this scene:

Different drinks available: usually beer, wine, fruit juice, soda, maybe one or two stronger alcohols like gin, vodka or whiskey.

Depending on the number of guests we could either be standing up or just sitting around on some chairs.

Finger food is offered either on a large table buffet style or presented on the center cocktail table.  The apéritif food could be hot or cold, but it is finger food, able to be picked up easily and enjoyed by the fingers. The appetizer food is filling, enough to leave the party without hunger, like you have eaten a meal.

The dinner can last as long as the host would like and the food is just enjoyed as it is: with rush, no pattern or real courses. An informal moment. The only real change towards another course is that for desserts. All is cleared away and voila! Les desserts appear.

Coffee and herbal tea served after the desserts which is the signal that the evening has come to an end.

Some Ideas To Do Your Own French-Style Appetizer Party

For a French style apéritif dînatoire, the emphasis in on finger food, presentation, filling offerings and freshness.

Here are some ideas on what you would see at a typical apéritif dînatoire to give you inspiration to do one too:

Topped Crostini or Tartines:

aperitif dinatoire

Fruit Rolled Up in Charcuterie -Bacon:

aperitif dinatoire

aperitif dinatoire

Savory Croissants, Quick Bread, or Cheese Puffs:

aperitif dinatoire

aperitif dinatoire

Elegant Smoked Salmon or Shrimp Open Sandwiches:

aperitif dinatoire

Rich Tastes on a Stick:

aperitif dinatoire

Trays of Olives, Proscuitto, Charcuterie, Cheese, Sundried Tomatoes, Ham:

aperitif dinatoire aperitif dinatoire

Original Filled Crackers:

aperitif dinatoire

Your Own Special Touches:


aperitif dinatoire

Surimi Balls:

aperitif dinatoire

The Main Point: a convivial evening!

An apéritif dînatoire offers an informal and cost effective way to have a gathering between friends sharing good food. Evening rolls to an end and everyone is full, satiated and happy.

Sounds fun! What do you think?

And your finger food ideas for the next cocktail party chez vous (your house)?  Share your favorites!

Have you reached the end and want to see more recipes and French inspired culture and health tips? Why not subscribe to the BrightonYourHealth monthly newsletter and article updates?  By joining you can download your free 13 page E-report on “How to Eat Like the French Without a Food Snob Attitude.”

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Warmly, Mary


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8 Responses to Aperitif Dinatoire: An Informal and Classy Dinner Party

  1. TheLadyinRed December 20, 2014 at 03:42 #

    I love this idea! Small bites is my favorite way to eat!
    TheLadyinRed recently posted..Time to Relax

  2. Sonya December 16, 2014 at 21:53 #

    Oh my – this all looks delicious! Whatever party it’s at, I want to be there 🙂

  3. Bala December 16, 2014 at 15:25 #

    I think an apéritif dinatoire is a very nice way to encourage getting-to-know-each-other better, and sampling different food.

    You mention a tasty selection!

    Seafood like shrimp, and lobster; rich salads (like waldorf) served in bite-sized preparations; and, chutneys served like tapenades on tartines are some examples that come to mind.

  4. Deanna Segrave-Daly (@tspbasil) December 16, 2014 at 14:33 #

    Such a fun idea for us Americans and love love all the nibbles recipes. This would be perfect for a New Year’s Party.


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