Pastis Isn't Just a Drink
Watered down or served as a shot, this aniseed aperitif is an intrinsic part of life in Provence
Cooking buffs use it to make the inimitable Flambéed Prawns – a classic aniseed-scented dish. And as logic would have it, seafood marries perfectly with a touch of Pastis too. Just marinade your sea bream or sardines and voilà! For those with a sweet tooth, aniseed soufflé remains one of the most refined desserts. You can also add a few drop to your biscuit preparation to make a sort of Canistrelli (where the wine is replaced with pastis).
Outside terrace pastis...
How about drinking something different?
The archetypal image of Provence is definitely this glass half-filled with yellow liquid, next to a jug of water and plate of olives, presiding over the local café tables. When you get off the train at Marseille St-Charles, a desire for pastis overcomes you almost immediately. Not because you're thirsty, but because that first sip of pastis allows you to set down your bags and get into the Provence mood. First invented to get round the prohibition of absinth in 1915, pastis was initially considered as a sort of derivative of the 'green fairy'. A legal aniseed absinth after a fashion. And although every French inhabitant drinks an average of 2 litres of pastis every year, the people of the South are undoubtedly right off the board… Because here the 'jaune' (yellow is the nickname of pastis) is the best-loved aperitif of them all…
And it's not because pastis is a popular drink that our local liquor doesn't deserve the red carpet. Jumping into the prestige pastis category is a bit like trading your Zara for a Vuitton… A world apart? Definitely! Pastis has its top-of-the-range too! A few, admittedly very small producers hoist the drink to premium status. Some are still produced in France, not far from their original birthplace, like the 'Grand Cru du Pastis' by Henri Bardouin, made in Haute Provence
with 62 plants and spices. In the city itself, the firm 'Cristal Limiñana', located near the Old Port, still produces its legendary 'Le Marseillais' pastis.
The newest addition to the prestige pastis family is the artisan 'Pastis des Creissauds' headed up by Guillaume Ferroni, who took over this struggling local business. The Dr. Strangelove of cocktails has concocted his own personal pastis - "a very herbaceous version" - based on the original recipe. The 'Pastis des Creissauds' contains no less than 18 fresh plants "of which we only use the leaves", all grown in the grounds of the Château d'Aubagne: wild Mediterranean plants (bay, rosemary – his is the size of a bush – wild thyme, etc.) and others nurtured in the 'Carré des Creissauds' (absinth, hyssop, peppermint and myrtle). Each plant is macerated separately for a year in demijohns using a neutral beetroot alcohol before being blended in oak casks to "Make the alcohol woodier. Like the finest wines, each vintage offers up new subtleties due to climate variations". This premium pastis (€34) is sold in the type of bottles used for 'Marc de Bourgogne' liqueur. The third vintage (7,500 litres in 2015) has just been bottled. Far removed from the run-of-the-mill pastis sold in local bars, the 'Pastis des Creissauds' is light green and
has a wild, delicately persistent aromatic flavour, with notes of fennel, aniseed and essential oils – a nice change from the usual aperitif.
The Pastis has also other utilities !
Pastis when the sky is grey, pastis always!
... or Pastis in the garden !
Things to do
Liquoristerie de Provence
Au coeur du pays d'Aix, la Liquoristerie de Provence est née de la passion de Marc Villaceque et Pascal Rolland pour les apéritifs et liqueurs des mestres d'autrefois. L'alchimie des mélanges à base d'anis ou d'absinthe reproduit des saveurs oubliées. Une élégante collection d'étiquettes…