Made in France: Pastis | Quality Villas

made in france: pastis


When it comes to France, it doesn’t do beverages by halves. Wine might be the first drink to spring to mind, but there are plenty of options when it comes to the French and their love of alcohol. In this piece, we’re going to tell you all about the French classic, Pastis.

What is Pastis?

Pastis is derived from the name ‘Occitan Pastis’ which means ‘mashup’. This drink is best known as an anise-flavoured spirit, originating from France. Pale yellow in colour, this unique drink dominates the south-eastern regions, predominantly Marseille.

There is a mixture of botanicals in this mashup drink with leading flavours of liquorice and star anise. More subtly detected is the array of herbs and spices that carry the aniseed flavour. Herbs such as oregano, thyme, rosemary, and spices such as cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg all contribute to this communal flavour.

The History of Pastis

Where did this concoction come from? Pastis has a somewhat suspect ancestry. The link most commonly known would be its alcohol relative, absinthe. Pastis has an interesting background tied to this controversial spirit, another well known, potent aniseed-based drink.

Absinthe was originally banned, but the French government in 1920’s allowed the production of absinthe-style drinks, on the condition that alcohol percentage was lower than that of its predecessor. Pastis came onto the scene in Marseille by Paul Ricard, a young entrepreneur. Despite ignoring the newly enforced law of strong alcoholic infusions, Pastis became popular with the locals and Ricard single-handedly managed to overturn the law on the ban on higher alcohol content. Because of this, Marseille became the home to this peculiar drink, and Pastis became an iconic staple of France.

a picture of two glasses with yellow liquid and black olives

What Happened to Pastis?

While Pastis is still around and enjoyed sparingly, it used to be at the forefront of consumption in France, as did many strong alcoholic mixtures. This changed when the drink-driving laws were overhauled, and stricter boundaries implemented. This put a strong halt on the mass consumption of high alcohol content drinks and, in turn, slowed down the sales and its impact on society.

Pastis also created its own global following, with other countries creating their own version of Pastis all around the world. Greece has Ouzo, Italy has sambuca and North Africa has arak, to name a few.

A picture of a road with cars and the Arc de Triomphe

How Do You Drink Pastis?

Excitingly, Pastis is traditionally served in three parts, a somewhat deconstructed drink, which only adds to the experience of trying this treat. The pastis itself would be served in tall glass, and only around 25ml will be poured into the bottom. The rest of the room in the glass is space for the additional water and ice cubes, and then, here is the part where the magic happens.

To drink your Pastis, simply pour the cold water into the glass on top of alcohol, which is typically four parts water to 1 part Pastis, though this can be adjusted for personal taste. The ice is optional, and traditionally, the French drink Pastis without ice, as it is said to alter the texture and taste of the Pastis. When you pour the water in with the pastis, it causes a chemical reaction which turns the whole drink into a milky, pastel yellow colour. It’s not completely clear why this affect happens, but essentially, when the water is added to the Pastis and they mix, it causes the botanicals within the Pastis to become insoluble, and it’s these particles that change the drink to cloudy.  

You can add different variations to this concoction depending on if you like to branch out from the traditional and there are a lot of tastes to choose from. Grenadine, strawberry syrup, crème de menthe, banana liqueur are all options to add to your Pastis; you can even add classic coca-cola.

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Here at Quality Villas, we want you to have an authentic French experience. So, while sampling the magic that is Pastis, why not do it in one of our Luxury holiday villas in the French Riviera?

Don’t forget to inspire your holiday beforehand, why not read our blog on books that feature the French Riviera.

If you have any questions or queries, contact us here.

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