Parsing Pastis: France’s Most Popular Anise-Based Spirit

Pastis is a refreshing anise-flavored French liqueur often served as an aperitif before meals. Whether served on the rocks with a twist of lemon, or mixed into a cocktail, pastis makes the perfect addition to any bar cart.

History of Pastis

Pastis hails from France and has been enjoyed there for decades; pastis was first bottled and sold commercially in the 1930s. Pastis is popular especially in the south of France in the coastal city of Marseille. Pastis gained popularity after absinthe was banned in 1914. Absinthe, another anise-flavored drink, had the unfounded reputation for causing people to become violent criminals. Many officials believed that the wormwood in absinthe was to blame and so they banned the beverage. Pastis has many of the same flavor attributes as absinthe, but does not contain wormwood, thereby filling the gap in the market left by absinthe’s absence. 

Image Credit: Flickr user cyclonebill ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

What is Pastis?

Throughout the Mediterranean, anise-flavored liqueurs are quite popular from ouzo to raki to arak. Pastis is made by infusing alcohol with licorice root and other flavorings and extracts. The resulting spirit is between 40 and 45% alcohol by volume and has a dark yellow color. You may have seen cloudy pale yellow glasses of pastis. This is not a different type of pastis, but is instead pastis which has been mixed with water. The additional water causes some of the ingredients in the pastis to become insoluble, causing a cloud effect. 

Pastis Cocktails

Many people like to enjoy pastis diluted with a little water, but it can also be mixed into a variety of cocktails. Most commonly, different syrups will be added to pastis to add a new layer of flavor such as strawberry syrup, grenadine, lavender syrup, or rosemary syrup. Some bartenders also use pastis in sazerac cocktails in place of absinthe. 

Image Credit: Flickr user cyclonebill ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

Shopping for Pastis

Head to the south of France and you will find pastis everywhere. There are enough bottles of pastis sold in France that each Frenchperson could enjoy two liters annually. There are two main pastis brands that can be found in and out of France: Ricard and Henri Bardouin. Both these brands feature an array of barks, herbs, and fruits that infuse their pastis with rich flavor. Be sure to pick up a bottle next time you’re at the store and you can enjoy the relaxing lifestyle of the south of France without having to leave your home. 

Image Credit: Flickr user Maxence Peniguet ( CC BY 2.0 )

Feature Image: Flickr user cyclonebill ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

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