Pastis is an anise-flavored liqueur and
apéritif from France, typically containing 40–45% alcohol by volume,
although alcohol-free varieties exist. Pastis was first commercialized
by Paul Ricard in 1932 and enjoys substantial popularity in France,
especially in the southern regions of the country.
Left: French pastis.
Pastis emerged some 17 years following the ban on
absinthe, during a time when the French nation was still
apprehensive of high-proof anise drinks in the wake of the absinthe debacle. The
popularity of pastis may be attributable to a penchant for anise drinks that was
cultivated by absinthe decades earlier, but is also the part of an old tradition
of Mediterranean anise liquors that includes
ouzo, arak, raki and mastika.
By legal definition, pastis is described as an anise flavored
spirit that contains the additional flavor of licorice root, and is bottled with
sugar. While pastis was probably originally artisanally produced from whole
herbs, modern representations are almost certainly prepared by mixing base
alcohol with flavorings (essences and/or extracts).
Pastis is often associated with its historical predecessor (absinthe), yet the
two are in fact very different. Pastis does not contain grand wormwood (Artemisia
absinthium), the herb from which absinthe derives its name. Also, pastis
obtains its anise flavor from a distillation (or industrially prepared
distillates) of star anise, a herb of asian origin, whereas absinthe
traditionally obtains its base flavor from green anise, a European herb.
Furthermore, pastis traditionally exhibits the distinct flavor of licorice root
(another herb of asian origin), which is not a part of a traditional absinthe.
Where bottled strength is concerned, traditional absinthes were bottled at
45-74% ABV, while pastis is typically bottled at 45-50% ABV. Finally, unlike a
traditional absinthe, pastis is a 'liqueur', which means it is always bottled
Pastis is normally diluted with water before drinking,
generally five volumes of water for one volume of pastis, but often raw pastis
is served together with a jug of water for the drinker to blend together
according to preference. The resulting decrease in alcohol percentage causes
some of the constituents to become insoluble, which changes the liqueur's
appearance from dark transparent yellow to milky soft yellow, a phenomenon also
present with absinthe and known as the ouzo effect. The drink is consumed cold
and is considered a refreshment for hot days. Ice cubes can be added after the
water to avoid crystallization of the anethole in the pastis. However, many
pastis drinkers refuse to add ice, preferring to drink the beverage with cool
Pastis is probably one of the most popular beverages in France where 130 million
liters are sold each year (more than 2 liters per inhabitant).
Cocktails with pastis
Some well known cocktails use pastis and syrups,
including the following:
Mauresque (French for "moorish")—pastis
with orgeat syrup
Perroquet (French for "parrot")—pastis
with green mint syrup
Tomate (French for "tomato")—pastis with
Cornichon (French for "gherkin")—pastis
with banana syrup
Death in the afternoon (invented by Ernest
Hemingway as an absinthe drink)—pastis with champagne