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In France, when gathered with friends, it is customary to drink beers or other light alcohol around 7pm, and this time is called apéritif (or apéro). Does this custom have an English (UK and/or US) equivalent? How would you say "on se verra à l'apéro"?

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I read about the english word 'aperitif' but I understand it refers to the drink rather than the time / occasion. – Trajan Aug 27 '13 at 12:43
There is a cultural difference in that 7 PM is around the time where most British and American people would be having dinner (or supper). As such, there really isn’t a word to describe having light drinks around 7 PM, because you generally don’t meet up with people to do that. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 27 '13 at 12:58
@JanusBahsJacquet Great, thanks, please post it as an answer so I can accept it. – Trajan Aug 27 '13 at 13:04
@JanusBahsJacquet It's more drinks before a meal, you can get one before lunch as well. – ANonNativeSpeaker Aug 27 '13 at 14:29
The word "aperitif" is used in English, but it does essentially refer to the drink itself. But if you call it "pre-dinner drink and nibbles" people will get the idea. – Neil Coffey Aug 28 '13 at 18:49

5 Answers 5

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The term cocktail hour has been used in the US to mean

the interval before the evening meal during which cocktails and other alcoholic beverages are often served

However, this is not limited to beer and light alcoholic beverages, but may include wine or strong spirits as well.

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Is cockatil hour formal or informal ? Would you say "come swing by for the cocktail hour" ? – Trajan Aug 29 '13 at 7:52
Cocktail hour is somewhat formal. Many people would say Swing by for cocktails which carries with it he suggestion of timing (in the evening before dinner). – bib Aug 29 '13 at 10:15

Some places have "happy hour", where a bar serves slightly cheaper drinks in the early evening.

There's a whole load of vernacular expressions for going to the pub and having a drink, but they're not really associated with a time: "go for a pint", "swift half", etc.

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The apéro is a French phenomenon, a particularly pleasant one --especially when combined with ti' punch-- but as already pointed out there is no equivalent term for it in English because the custom itself does not exist.

The closest translation I can think of is tea. In Britain and the British world, you can meet for tea which means something to eat and, well, tea. The exact time varies from place to place and according to social background (see the link above) but come over for tea will be understood in the British world as come over this afternoon for a light snack and a drink.

As a native English speaker living in the south of France I must stress again that this does not have the same connotations as the French apéro. For example, alcohol may well be absent if you meet for tea while it most certainly will be present if you meet for apéro. Still tea is the closest you'll find in English.

EDIT: Coctail hour is indeed closer despite this being the accepted answer.

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Does that mean it is common not to drink tea when "coming over for tea"? And I held the British in such a great esteem... – Aeronth Aug 27 '13 at 13:51
@Aeronth not really, the offering and drinking of tea is a very important part of British culture, tea will be on offer in almost any social context. If you invite someone over for tea, actual leaf infusions are not mandatory but they are customary. – terdon Aug 27 '13 at 14:10

I think the closest equivalent has another French word:

Hors d'oeuvre which is also called Appetizers

It is more food related, but is close to your situation as in

Can we meet for appetizers?

That said, I (Danish) would certainly understand what you meant if you asked me to join you for an apéritif

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apéritif is certainly also used in Britain, but (in my experience) it would more usually be used for a drink before a meal at the same location; i.e. you've already arranged to have a meal together (in a home, pub, restaurant, etc.) and, when you meet, you ask if guests want an apéritif. – TrevorD Aug 27 '13 at 14:23

In spite of what is being said, I believe that "Happy Hour," traditionally after high tea (4pm) and before the evening meal (supper/dinner around 7 or 8pm) is a common tradition where not only are drinks cheaper in order for the establishment to attract a larger clientele in this off-hour, but often nibbles or little bite-sized food and appropriately small plates are provided gratis. Both provided by private or commercial establishments to boost their off-hours with the hopes of providing the local cafe or hotel restaurant with an evening's crowd and happy returning customers.

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