How to drink pastis

Pastis is a strong (45% alcohol) French anise/licorice liqueur, somewhat similar to Greece’s ouzo and Lebanon’s arak. It is part of the traditional culture of the south of France, and especially of Marseille and pétanque.

Ricard, the best-known maker of pastis, has for many decades been a prominent sponsor of petanque tournaments and events. Another well-known brand is Pernod, which however does not call itself a pastis. The two companies, Ricard and Pernod, merged in 1974, although the brands are still separate.

The traditional way to drink pastis is —

  • Pour a 1/2 inch of pastis into a glass.
  • Add cold water to dilute it to about five (or seven) parts water to one part pastis. The water will instantly and magically transform your pastis from a clear amber color to a milky greenish-yellow.
  • Add an ice cube or two, but not more. Ice is optional and some purists forbid it, preferring to use cool water only. If you drink it with ice, the ice must be added after the water to avoid crystallization of the anethol in the pastis. Never store pastis in the refrigerator.
  • Sip slowly on a sunny terrace at the end of the afternoon.

Pastis may also be taken by itself as an aperitif. Or you can drink it like an American— with Coca-Cola or 7-Up, or in a pastis cocktail.

I love the change in color and the fact that you can re-dilute your pastis once you’ve drunk it down a ways, to extend it and, perhaps, sober up a bit. I also love the way pastis gives you a roaring appetite. … Try it with a bowl of tapenade, good olive oil and some rounds of crusty bread, and you’re set for the beginning of a great meal.


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