Tchin ! A guide to French tipples

Think of French drinks, and champagne, wine and 1664 beer probably spring to mind. But France is home to many more beverages besides, including cider, beer, and spirits and liqueurs. Below is our selection of some of the top tipples on offer across France – how many of them have you tried?

Whisky in Brittany

You don’t have to visit Scotland to enjoy a good whisky! Although a relative newcomer to the whisky market, Celtic cousin Brittany produced its first whisky in1998, ‘Armorik’ made at the Warenghem distillery. This was followed by ‘Eddu’ from the Distillerie des Menhirs (the only whisky in the world distilled just from buckwheat), ‘Kaerilis’ made on Belle-Ile-en-Mer, and further traditional whiskies made at the Glann ar Mor distillery.

Find out more about your next trip to Brittany (External link)

Beer in Northern France

When people invite you out for drinks in Northern France, more often than not you’ll find local beer on the table. With an average alcohol content that’s higher than the global average (between 4% and 6%), people in Lille don’t drink beer, they degust it with local cheeses such as Maroilles and Mimolette. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not try some Picon with your beer? This orange-infused liqueur complements lager perfectly.

Mirabelle liqueur in Lorraine

With more than 70% of its global production coming from Lorraine, it’s no wonder that mirabelle brandy is nicknamed the 'Queen of Lorraine'. Mirabelle is the only fruit brandy to have its own Mirabelle de Lorraine appellation (quality mark). This eau de vie is twice distilled, making the mirabelle flavour even stronger. Usually enjoyed as an after-dinner liqueur, you can also enjoy Mirabelle de Lorraine as a trou Lorrain, a tasty treat comprising mirabelle sorbet dosed in brandy.

Find out more about your next trip to Lorraine (External link)

Calvados in Normandy

Did you know that until the beginning of the 19th century, Calvados was just a drink that was produced on farms to be enjoyed with the family? This famous apple brandy, produced throughout Normandy, was always a popular local tipple, but it went on to become a staple feature on drinks menus across France when development of France’s railway network made it possible to export Calvados out of the region. There are three appellations - Calvados, Calvados Pays d’Auge and Calvados Domfrontais, which also contains 30% pears - and a variety of different vintages (the longer Calvados has aged in the barrel, the more complex the flavour).

Bénédictine in Fécamp

Bénédictine, a delicious concoction of 27 herbs and spices, can be enjoyed as an aperitif or digestive, and is served in cocktails all around the world. The liqueur dates back to 1510 when Venetian monk Dom Bernardo Vincelli brought a recipe for an ‘elixir’ with him when he came to stay at the Benedictine abbey in Fécamp, Normandy. Nearly a century later, in 1863, Fécamp wine merchant Alexandre Le Grand discovered in his family library the book that contained this mysterious recipe, and decided to reproduce it, call it Bénédictine and market it internationally. Today, you can visit the Bénédictine Palace in Fécamp for a tour of Le Grand’s distillery, still in use to this day, followed by a tasting.

Armagnac in Gascony

If you already like Cognac, then you should try its main competitor: Armagnac. This century old brandy is made in the jewel of the Gascony region. Distilled from wine, this liqueur is made from a blend of grapes including colombardm folle blanche and ugni blanc. The production is overseen by an institution charged to control the quality of the beverage. Did you know that Armagnac is the oldest brandy distilled in France?

Pastis in Marseille

Pastis is a very popular alcoholic drink in the south-eastern regions of France, and is mostly drunk around Marseille. Also called Pastaga, this aniseed-flavoured spirit is diluted with water to create a lovely beverage with a milky light yellow colour. Often associated with the Provençal lifestyle and the famous game of pétanque, this drink is the perfect refreshment for a hot day.

Find out more about your next trip to Marseille (External link)

Champagne in Champagne

We couldn’t not talk about champagne, could we? Did you know that this sparkling wine was created accidentally? As the bottle exploded and the corks popped due to the pressure inside of the bottle, this sparkling wine was led to be called 'le vin du diable'(The devil’s wine). The bubbles that were at the time considered as a flaw are what made it famous. The Champagne winemaking community has developed an extensive set of rules which winemakers have to follow if they want to be allowed to call their wine champagne, guaranteeing the quality of the beverage.

Cognac in Charente

We’ve just mentioned Cognac earlier, but do you know what it is? Like Armagnac, this brandy is produced using grapes. It gets its name from the lovely city of Cognac, located in Charente-Maritimes. This brandy has to follow a lot of different rules to be allowed to be called Cognac. For example, it must be distilled twice in copper pot stills and aged at least two years in oak barrels, either from Limousin or Tronçais. Such as whiskey and wine, it is possible to make Cognac matures to develop the flavour.

Cointreau in Atlantic Loire Valley

It’s time to discover this orange-flavoured triple sec liqueur! Created by two brothers, Adolphe and Edouard-Jean Cointreau, who also happened to be the inventors of the cherry liqueur Guignolet, this liqueur is a major hit. The first bottles were sold in 1875 with an estimated 13 million of bottles sold each year in more than 150 countries. Enjoyed as an aperitif or a digestif, this alcohol is also used in many famous cocktails such as the margarita or the cosmopolitan. This liqueur is unsurpassed for aromatics, it’s a real must have.

Cider in Western France

Brittany, Normandy and Atlantic Loire Valley all share the cool, maritime climate that favours apple (and pear) growing, and cider has been produced here since the Middle Ages. Both Brittany and Normandy boast official cider routes (around Cornouaille and the Pays d’Auge) where visitors can visit any of the many farms en route, try out some apple cider and enjoy the beautiful orchard surroundings. In the Orne, Manche and Mayenne départements, perry (poiré) is the order of the day, and there is a lesser-known perry route which straddles the appellation region of Domfront. France is currently the largest cider-producing country in the world, which arguably makes its light, sparkling cider the crème de la crème!

Chartreuse in Grenoble

Time to try an alcohol that’s out of the ordinary. This liqueur has been made by carthusian monks since 1737 and is named after the Grande Chartreuse monastery located in the mountains near the beautiful city of Grenoble. This liqueur is composed of distilled alcohol which is aged with a selection of 130 herbs, plants and flowers, creating an inimitable, aromatic taste.

Red wine in Bordeaux

Wine is so important in Bordeaux that they have built a wine museum there called 'La Cité du Vin'. With more than 120,000 hectares of vineyard and 8,500 producers or chateaux, Bordeaux is the largest wine growing area in France. The vast majority of wine produced there is red, ranging from everyday table wine to some of the most expensive and prestigious wine in the world. With a total of 54 appellations of Bordeaux wine, you will surely find your perfect red wine.

White wine in Alsace

Whether it is sparkling or not, the wines from Alsace are masterpieces. Protected by different AOCs ('controlled designation of origin'), this region uses mainly similar grape varieties to those used in German wine. This region produces primarily white wine such as dry Rieslings or the highly aromatic Gewürztraminer. If you have never had the chance to try these, you should definitely add it to your list.

Rosé in Provence

Provence is the French land of rosé, with nearly 90% of the region’s vineyard dedicated to producing this type of wine. This makes it the number one region to produce rosé in France. Pretty impressive, right? It’s thanks to Provence’s climate and terroir that rosé from Provence is so unique. Elegant and refreshing, this crisp, dry wine is known for its lovely pale pink colour.

Please, drink responsibly