Pastis – what exactly is it?

Pastis – what exactly is it?

Get the story behind France’s cult drink no.1 as well as a few good recipes; including the delicious cocktail Riviera Brezze

2 glas pastis ved poolen
Pastis is wonderfully refreshing on a hot summer day

Pastis is the uncrowned “cult drink” of Provence

Every place has its traditions and the south of France has many. Siesta after lunch, a game of petanque at one of the ubiquitous “boule pitches,” a visit to the local market or a stop at the café serving pastis.

It all started with absinth

Pastis’ story starts when absinth had to withdraw its weapons because of a ban. The green liqueur had its heyday in the 1800s and was especially popular in the artist environment. However, due to its alleged negative effects on the nervous system, it was banned in 1915.

Absinth is made from garden malt, green anise and fennel. And it was the garden malt that contains the active substance thujone that was the bad wolf in that mixture and that led to the ban.

It put the absinth distilleries under pressure and the need for new drinks increased. It was the beginning of the pastis we know today.

The difference between absinth and pastis

In the video you can hear about the difference and similarities between the two drinks as well as a little backstory about the creation of the anise-based pastis.

Paul Richard invents pastis

Although Jules-Felix Pernod was already in 1918 first with something reminiscent of pastis (Anis Pernod), it was the only 23-year-old wine merchant son from Marseilles, Paul Ricard, who was given the honor of pastis’ inventor in 1932. He was adept at marketing and with the slogan “Ricard, le vrai pastis de Marseille” (Ricard, the real pastis from Marseilles), he got what was to become France’s upcoming national drink. However, it would be another 6 years before it became the pastis we know today with an alcohol content of 45%.

The most popular pastis brands

Today, there are mainly three brands that characterize the offering. They are Pernod, Richard and Pastis 51, respectively.

How to drink pastis

Pastis is available in several colors, but the basic formula for the traditional drink is the same – pastis is mixed with ice cubes and water in different proportions, depending on taste. However, pastis is also suitable in various cocktails, for ex. Riviera Breeze as shown in the photo below.

plate with oranges and 2 glases of pastis cocktails
Here’s a recipe for Riviera Breeze from Spicytwist (dk)  with Gingerale and Orange Juice – photo Spicytwist

Here are the three recipes that you can find on the back of the label of a bottle of Pastis 51:

  • 51 Classique
    2 cl of 51 Pastis, 10 cl water a few ice cubes
  • Le demi 51
    3 cl of 51 Pastis, 22 cl water (a load full) with ice cubes
  • 51 Piscine
    2 cl of 51 Pastis, 14 cl water cased in ice cubes

By Tommy Sverre – 2021

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