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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 sambuca, 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 with sugar.

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 spring water.

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 grenadine syrup

  • Cornichon (French for "gherkin")—pastis with banana syrup

  • Death in the afternoon (invented by Ernest Hemingway as an absinthe drink)—pastis with champagne


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