Pastis, the cult drink of the South of France
Some traditions in Provence are a must: taking a nap after lunch serenaded by cicadas, joining a game of pétanque on the Place des Lices in Saint-Tropez...but our favorite is strolling through the markets or sitting on a café terrace with a glass of pastis! From the origins of its name to its precocious creator, find out all the mysteries of this aniseed-flavored beverage below.
The "little yellow one"
"Petit jaune" or "little yellow one": the nickname for pastis. It comes from the yellow color of the drink, obtained with the help of a dye. Since then, pastis has evolved over the years to take on rather surprising shades from the whole color wheel, like bright blue or green!
A cousin of absinthe
Pastis can boast of having ingredients in common with its northern cousin absinthe: green anise and fennel. The legendary "green fairy," much appreciated by 19th century artists such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) or Paul Verlaine (1844-1896), was banned from sale and consumption in 1915. And for good reason: it was said to drive people crazy and have the same effects as psychotropic drugs! It was thus be replaced from 1922 on by drinks based on aniseed, fennel or liquorice, authorized by the public authorities up to 30% alcohol maximum.
Paul Ricard, its inventor
While absinthe, the flagship drink of the 19th century, had just been banned from sale, a certain Paul Ricard hatched a scheme. He sought to create a beverage that was largely inspired by the wildly popular aniseed-flavored aperitif, but was still legal to sell. In 1932, this son of a wine merchant from Marseille was only 23 years old when he started working on an aperitif that would come to convey the image of the South of France and the Provençal way of life. He baptized his creation with his own name, Ricard, with a slogan that has become cult: "Ricard, the real mix (pastis) of Marseille". The drink caught on, and the aperitif was found on most drink menus throughout France. In 1938, pastis containing 113%, the home-made degree of alcohol, was authorised for sale. A new ban was be put in place during the Second World War, from 1940 to 1949, in which it became impossible to sell or consume alcohol above 16%.
A historical beverage
Anise, a major ingredient in the composition of pastis, was already used 15 centuries BCE, notably by the Romans. It was used to treat tooth and gum problems, as well as heart disease. According to legend, the Romans found that anise had another useful property: it whetted their appetite! Since then, anise has demonstrated its digestive virtues, since it is often used as the main ingredient in herbal teas.
A name with multiple origins
The word 'pastis' is derived from the combination of two terms: the first of Provençal origin, 'pâtisson,' and the second of Italian origin, 'pasticchio.' Both words mean "mixture". An etymology which corresponds perfectly to the principle of pastis, a mixture of different herbs!
Prepare your trip to Provence
- Prepare your trip to Provence
- Also read: In pursuit of green gold in Provence and Everything You Need to Know about Lavender in 5 Minutes