Pastis, Ricard, Pernod and other southern French spirits


Apparently more glasses of the aniseed-flavoured Pastis are drunk in France every year than glasses of wine!! According to Peter Mayle, author of “A Year in Provence” and other books “the most powerful ingredient in Pastis is not the aniseed or the alcohol – it’s the atmosphere!“. Although not my favourite author, he is nevertheless accurate here – much like Provence Rose wine, Pastis is a wonderful indulgent beverage when drunk in the warm, sunny climes of southern France – and a much more austere medicinal drink when ventured on a cold winters day in Warwickshire. Pastis is a drink which has within it the sunshine of Provence and southern France.
Initially was orignally developed as a replacement for the legendary and banned Absinthe, which had a very high alcohol content (65-75%) and was made from wormwood – a lethal combination which could have disastrous effects when drunk to excess. The drink even had its own ritual which involved pouring it into a special glass over a sugar cube cradled in a perforated spoon. It is essentially a neutral alcohol flavoured with star anise, green anise, fennel or other aniseed plant. – and it comes in 2 versions – white and yellow and common to both is the impact of adding iced water which turns the liquid cloudy – believed to be where the name “pastis” comes from, meaning “hazy”, “mixed” or “confused”.
For many visitors, we tend to use the terms Pastis, Ricard or Pernod interchangeably, but the connoisseurs will have distinct preferences and idneitfy significant differences in flavour – notably the extent of licorice flavouring .There are also numerous other brands, many originating from Marseille, such as Pastis 51, Berger , Henri Bardouin and Janot. Some are now flavoured (Lemon Pastis 51 for example).
I do look forward to a summers day sitting on the terrace of a bar with my small glass of Pastis, jug of water (no ice I am told), and watching the world go by – bliss!

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Keywords: Marseille, France, Pastis,Pernod,Ricard

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