Pastis is a spirit made from anise which originated in France and is especially popular in the south of the country. Originally the basic ingredient was local anise from France, whereas today, mostly star anise from China or Vietnam is used for production. Other ingredients include sugar, fennel seeds, licorice roots, various other herbs and water. The brandy typically contains 40 to 45 percent alcohol by volume.
How to drink Pastis
The most traditional and common way of consuming Pastis is in a mix with ice-cold water whereas one part of the brandy is usually mixed with 5-6 parts of water. The occurring dilution has the effect that previously dissolved essential oils are insoluble in alcohol. The usually dark yellow to bronze-colored schnapps turns into an opalescent, milky white yellow (louche or ouzo effect). The yellow of Pastis is created by artificial coloring. Certain suppliers also offer blue or completely colorless variants of the alcoholic beverage.
Instead of serving Pastis mixed with water it is also commonly prepared as a longdrink with coke, bitter lemon, Champagne or orange juice. For another version that is especially popular in southern France a shot of mint syrup is added to the mixture of Pastis, water and ice. Due to its green color, the drink is called ‚Perroquet‘ (parrot).
A Substitute for Absinthe
The anise brandy originated in the Provence region in the south of France, where also its name was derived from the local word ‘Pastís’ meaning ‘mixture’.
When the production, distribution and consumption of the thujone-containing Absinthe and similar spirits were banned in March 1915, Provence peasants secretly came up with a substitute called ‘pastiche’ (meaning ‘imitation’) which was made from anise. However, also anise liqueurs got prohibited and so it was not until 1922 that a law was passed in France which recognized that, unlike Absinthe, Anise liqueurs are harmless and were therefore allowed again. From that time on, Pastis started its triumphal procession across France.
Raki from Turkey and the Balkans
Ouzo from Greece
Arak from Lebanon and Syria
Sambuca from Italy
Anisette from Tunisia and Algeria
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Photos by cyclonebill