Provençal drink or what to drink as an apéritif in Provence?
Updated: May 24
The drink of Provence: PASTIS
When you come to Provence, a whole universe of new horizons and new flavors is available to you. Among these flavors, I will invite you to discover the calisson, the tarte tropézienne and “Pastis”. Pastis is the undisputed drink of the South of France.
What is it?
Liquor produced in Provence, Pastis is THE drink to discover when you come for an immersion stay in Provence. Pastis is born from the maceration of liquorice and fennel. It is part of the large family of aniseed drinks, just like absinthe.
A “real” Pastis is at least 45 degrees. It is usually drunk as an aperitif with water and ice cubes. Its amber yellow color becomes lighter and lighter as water is added. If you don't add enough water, the pastis retains a fairly dark color and looks like a "Flamby" (a potted caramel flan that we ate in the canteen when we were children).
Pastis is the best-selling aniseed drink in the world and in France. According to the company RICARD, market leader in Pastis, “the French consume 130 million liters of pastis each year, i.e. 2 liters per person per year”.
Pastis is also called "pastaga", "petit jaune" or "anisette".
A bit of history
Several centuries ago, the countries of the Mediterranean basin consumed liqueurs made from fennel and absinthe. The arrival of anise in France is made during the Crusades and the invasion of the Maures. The climate is suitable for the plant which is spreading in Provence.
During the First World War, absinthe and aniseed drinks were banned. They are authorized again in 1920 but they must be less than 30 degrees.
In 1922, the restriction on the degree of alcohol was removed. The pastis is then sold frenetically.
It was in 1932 that Paul Ricard invented the recipe including anise and liquorice. During the Second World War, under the Vichy regime, pastis was again banned. After the war, a restriction on the degrees of alcohol is again imposed. This is the birth of a real clandestine network.
It was in 1949 that the government repealed prohibition. As advertisements for alcoholic beverages in the press were prohibited the company called Pernod developed a real sales network in the field.
Several cocktails based on Pastis exist:
- The Mauresque which is a mixture of pastis and orgeat syrup
- The Parrot which is a mixture based on pastis and mint syrup
There are others like the Mazout (a mix of coke and pastis) but I will not share them with you because I have never tried them. And frankly the mixture of coke and pastis does not tempt me at all. Pastis can also be used in cooking recipes such as prawns with pastis.
It also has its derivatives in the countries of the Mediterranean basin such as Ouzo in Greece, Sambuca in Italy or Aguardiente in Spain.
When you come to us for an immersion stay in Provence, I will be happy to share this with you. I will also be very happy to help you discover the landscapes, the scents, the culture of this beautiful region while helping you improve your French.
À bientôt en Provence !
Virginie In Provence