When you think of Provence chances are you can visualise men sitting on a shaded terrace sipping pastis. This quintessential French beverage (45°alcohol content) is made by macerating several plants including anis and liquorice. Varying quantities of water, which turn the drink a cloudy yellow, are added to complete the drink which is usually enjoyed as an aperitif.
During the 1930s Paul Ricard introduced a Pastis made with anis , star anis and liquorice. « Ricard, le vrai pastis de Marseille » (Ricard the real pastis from Marseille) was the advertising tag line. Ricard became the leader in sales and fought fiercely with its competitor Pernod with who they merged in 1975. According to Pernod-Ricard French consumption is at an all time high.
If you prefer to add an additional flavour to your pastis you can order any of the following for a slight variation: A “tomate” is with grenadine syrup, a “perroquet” is with mint syrup, and a “diesel” is with white wine added.
Although a similar beverage made with anis can be found throughout the Mediterranean basin; anisette in North Africa, ouzo in Greece, sambuca in Italy) the French don’t believe these “other” beverage are worth comparing let alone mentioning. But to an untrained palate it may be worth noting you may have tried something vaguely similar once.
I recommend you stop off at the Maison du Pastis on the Vieux Port in Marseille where you can get a quick lesson on the beverage. This shop produces their own “blends”. If you can’t make it to the shop visit the website www.lamaisondupastis.com And don’t forget if you order a pastis is Marseille, do it using local language - just ask for a pastaga!