1 August 2023

Apéro o’clock

Posted by Terry Glover

Apéro o’clock is my favourite time of day. I’m borrowing the word from the French tradition here, but I’d argue that the practice is truly international: everywhere has some vague notion that a gentle reset at the end of the working day in the form of a drink and an appetizing bite is good for the body and the mind. It’s often a moment to gather with friends or family; to stop, freshen up, and get yourself in the mood to enjoy the evening ahead.

We find regional specialities all over the world. At my grandad’s pub in Melbourne they would set out little dishes of mature cheddar cubes and slices of kabanos sausage on the bar as an essential part of happy hour. France has a show-stopping array of salty classics: the pissaladière from Aix-en-Provence, salted crepes from Brittany, cured ham from Bayonne, anchoïade from Côte d'Azur — the list goes on. Venice has cicchetti (on small plates), Tuscany has taglieri (on wooden boards), and each province of Spain boasts a different variety of tapas. Just as these bold flavours help to whet the appetite, traditional apéro-style drinks often act as digestifs — herbaceous liqueurs or cocktails which stimulate the digestive system and have a positive effect on the health. Think Campari, Vermouth or Fernet Branca: bitter, potent tonics. My gran’s 6 o’clock staple was cinzano with soda water and lemon, and its pretty typical here in the UK for the older generation to enjoy a glass of sherry or a whisky with a shot of water around that hour. 

Considering that it combines two of my all-time favourite things — intense, umami-rich taste sensations and nana drinks — it’s no surprise that apéro o’clock speaks to me. Many of the classic components have been part of the Cake Shop offering since the very beginning: deli food, pickles and preserves, cured meats alongside a ripe tomato or a slice of fruit, the “tasty bits”. 

Now, we’re officially making apéro o’clock part of our regular schedule. From Thursday 17 August onwards the Cake Shop is going to be open for an hour and half before Bookshop events, offering a variety of small plates and drinks. Think brioche crostini with whipped blue cheese and preserved dates; sourdough crostini with smokey roasted oyster mushroom cream topped with roasted shiitakes and hazelnuts; Edwardian anchovy toast with parmesan cream; and a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails based on stimulating and mellow botanicals. 

You can let us know that you want to come to apéro o’clock when you book your ticket for the author event on Eventbrite. We’d be delighted to see you there —to raise a glass and enjoy a refreshing and restorative moment before the evening kicks off.