Paris is a city of cafés, and nearly every Parisian spends time in them, gossiping with friends, working on a novel, debating politics or just watching the passersby. A café express or aperitif, sidewalk table and blue skies -- the perfect Paris afternoon.
This is the classic dark, strong, short coffee -- the French equivalent of the Italian espresso. Sugar is often added, but never milk. The cafe express, typically ordered with the simple "un cafe, s'il vous plait," is enjoyed any time of the day or evening when a surefire pick-me-up is what's needed.
Café au Lait
Many Parisians start the day with a café au lait and a croissant or a buttered baguette. Cafés make this popular morning drink in a no-frills stout cup or in a small bowl, mixing a café express with lots of steamed milk and then topping it off with a little cloud of foam.
A café express thinned with the addition of hot water. Cafés sometimes serve the water in a pitcher alongside so that the customer can add as much or as little as desired. This light-bodied cup is sometimes called a cafe americain.
A café express with just a dash of warm milk resting on top. The coffee turns the color of hazelnuts -- noisettes -- when the milk is stirred into it.
More widely available than the café au lait, this morning favorite is made in a short, wide cup and consists of a café express topped with a thick layer of steamed milk and then a nice layer of foam. The crème is the French cappuccino and is mostly drunk for breakfast; it comes in a large version, the grand crème, and a small version, the petit crème.
A strong, clear, anise-flavored spirit from the south of France, pastis is a familiar aperitif in cafes, especially in the warm summer months. It is always served in a tall, tapered glass, with a pitcher of ice-cold water alongside. When diluted with the water, the pastis instantly turns a cloudy yellow.
This is a Parisian do-it-yourself lemonade: a tall, clear glass with ice is half filled with freshly squeezed lemon juice, and a bowl of sugar and jug of cold water are served on the side. An orange pressée replaces the lemon juice with fresh orange juice.
A popular aperitif named for the one-time mayor of Dijon, the kir combines crème de cassis, a sweet black currant liqueur, with dry white wine in a tulip-shaped wineglass. A kir royal replaces the white wine with Champagne.
The best French hot chocolate is a sweet, dark concoction made by melting shards of chocolate and is so thick you can almost eat it with a spoon. Hot chocolate is drunk in the morning or at teatime, and at some cafes, the melted chocolate is served in its own thick-walled jug alongside a cup of warm milk, for mixing together at the table.
Parisians have been serious tea drinkers for more than a century, sipping it plain, with a slice of lemon (thé au citron), or more rarely with a splash of milk (thé au lait).