l'aperitif: the basics
First, reach for a drink. Ideally, nothing too strong or too sweet or too large. You want to strike the right balance here since l'apéritif takes place in the early evening. It shouldn't make you feel tipsy after the first sip neither to full before the meal. Instead, it should give you an appetite for what's to come. An apéro should make you feel relaxed, chatty, happy but still able to hold a conversation.
What to pour?
It's down to your personal taste although we would suggest the followings: a crisp and cold glass of rosé wine on a warm day, a kir (simple or royal) is always a favourite, a cold beer or dry cider work well, a glass of Suze (if you happen to travel back to 1988), a glass of champagne on a special occasion, or perhaps an Aperol spritz. In all honesty, there are no restrictions. We've known some "bons vivants" enjoying a glass of moscatel (a sweet wine from Portugal) or a G&T. We won't say no to a good glass of Bourgogne or even a red from Bordeaux. Experiment and soon you'll find your drink of choice.
Again, nothing too filling unless your desire is to turn this moment into an "apéritif dinatoire" (more on this here) neither anything too sweet. A small salty snack is preferred.
What to plate?
Salted peanuts (cacahuètes), Chipster, Monstermunch and others addictive and umami filled snacks, little bruchetta with tapenade or cheese, olives (simply marinated or stuffed with anchovies), mini canapés (quiche, vols-au-vent, pigs in blankets, foie gras) if tonight is a special night, spicy nut mix if you feel adventurous or even some nice leftover parma ham and other cured meats. These are some basics than never fail.