A highly adaptable cocktail you should be serving at your next virtual happy hour from the woman who literally wrote the book on evening drinks

Suze Tonic
Photograph by Joann Pai

Welcome to Sunset Suppers, a series of cooking videos shot by chefs and food notables in the first weeks of self-quarantine. These days everyone’s living, working, and cooking differently. That includes us here at Sunset—where our homes have become our offices/studios/test kitchens—and it includes chefs. We asked our favorite chefs in the West and beyond to turn the camera on themselves and share their tips on how to cook easy, nourishing, and comforting food with the limitations of what people have on hand. Similarly we’d like to know what and how you’re cooking, so please share your hacks and home cook victories on social media and tag it #sunsetsuppers!

Rebekah Peppler was probably doing the whole virtual happy hour thing before you were. Two weeks ago, the writer, food stylist, and author of Aperitif: How to Cocktail the French Way self-isolated in her Paris apartment as Covid-19 was gaining a foothold in France. The ex-New Yorker and sometime-Angeleno refused to yield her evening ritual of drinks with friends. Instead of meeting at a bar in Monmarte she and a far-flung group met on House Party, Zoom, or one-on-one FaceTime drinks dates. “It’s not just my Parisian friends,” says Peppler. “But also friends and family in Wisconsin, New York, and the West Coast. sometimes it’s this weird apéro/coffee thing.”

Peppler points out that aperitif means “to open” and in Europe it the marks the beginning of the evening, rather than the end of the workday. “Nothing is ‘normal’ now and we’re connecting with each other around the globe, so whatever works best for the people you’re connecting with is what matters,” says Peppler. “Sometimes one of us is having a coffee in the morning while the other is having an early evening apéro. Other times the “apéro” is tea or water. At its root it’s really a time to connect, reset, and show/tell someone you love that you love them.”

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When asked to offer the quintessential aperitif, Peppler suggests a light and lemony Suze Tonic from her book. “Mentally I’m skipping ahead to the summer months,” she says. Suze is a gentian-based liqueur with pleasantly bitter notes not unlike a grapefruit version of Campari. If you don’t have Suze on hand you can sub in any number of low alcohol liqueurs or amaros. It’s a simple and sprightly cocktail without too much alcohol that you can make as long as you have tonic on hand. But whatever you drink, it’s the time spent, not the drink sipped that matters during virtual apéritif hour. “It’s one of the ways we can feel a little less alone in a world that, right now, feels incredibly lonely,” says Peppler. “The actual drink is simply a bonus.”

Follow Peppler on Instagram at @rebekahpeppler

Recipe: Suze Tonic

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