I read a book on aperitifs recently and found some excellent recipes for pastis cocktails. I'm a big pastis fan -- the anise-flavored spirits such as Herbsaint, Ricard, Pernod, et al. -- and it's a great way to sit back, prime your taste buds for your meal, and basically feel civilized.
There's still ritual involved with it, left over from the days of the absintheurs, which I also enjoy. (If you have any, you could of course use absinthe as well.) The narrow, heavy-bottomed glass, the pitcher of cold water, the slotted spoon and sugar cube if it needs sugar, the pouring, the clouding-up ... it's fun. They say that pastis epitomizes the south of France, and Provence in particular. I could say that a pastis drink immediately transports me back there ... um, 'cept I've never been. Yet.
The excellent book Aperitif, by Georgeanne Brennan, has introduced me to three variations on classic pastis which she learned about from neighbors while living in Provence. They all have an ounce of pastis and 4 - 5 ounces of cold water in common, but are all flavored with different sweetened syrups -- almond, grenadine and mint. This produces vibrant colors in these drinks as well, and their names, particularly "The Tomato" and "The Parrot", refer to their color rather than anything having to do with their flavor. (I'm not sure I'd want a parrot-flavored cocktail anyway.) My favorite so far is La Mauresque, although I have yet to try Le Perroquet.
These are all very common in Provence, so if you ever go there you can order these at the village café and sound like you know what you're talking about, instead of sounding like a dumb foreigner.
Pour one ounce of pastis into the glass, followed by 1 tablespoon of orgeat syrup (you can substitute almond syrup), then pour in about 4 ounces of cold water, and an ice cube or two if you like. Stir and serve.
Pour one ounce of pastis into the glass, followed by 1 tablespoon of grenadine, then pour in about 4 ounces of cold water, and an ice cube or two if you like. Stir and serve.
Pour one ounce of pastis into the glass, followed by 1 tablespoon of green mint syrup, then pour in about 4 ounces of cold water, and an ice cube or two if you like. Stir and serve.
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Chuck Taggart email chef (at) gumbopages (dot) com