The Milky Yellow Trance of Summer

Pastis It may just be fond memories of drinking it in the warm summer air of the south of France, but I'll swear that the buzz I get from my beloved, milky yellow Pastis is a different kind, a softer, a richer and fuzzier and more comfortable buzz than I get from drinking any other kind of alcohol.

And I like it.

As someone recently explained to me, "Pastis is something you either like or don't like." And it's so true. My experience is that the majority of people don't take to the anise-flavored, herbal, somewhat bitter drink that will also throw of hints of sweetness. But for me, May through September is Pastis season. I can think of no better beverage to sip when nothing but a long, quiet, warm afternoon and evening looms in front of me.

Pastis is very popular in France and has been since Absinthe was banned in that country in 1915. Absinthe producers got rid of the wormwood, reformulated their recipe and introduced the French to a new kind of drink. Today, the French consume two liters per capita!! And I'd bet half that goes down gullets located between Provence  and the Cote d'Azur.

Now, many folks will argue that Pastis should only be served without ice. My preference is to drink it over ice. I like a glass filled half way with small ice cubes, enough pastis poured over the ice so that it reaches the same level as the top of the ice, then finished with varying amounts of water to create a particular strength. I like just enough water to retain the grip of the Pastis and a moderate degree of flavor intensity, but not too strong so as to remove the thirst quenching quality of the drink that recommends it so highly for summer consumption.

What you will usually find in a decent bar is either Ricard or Pernod. These are the two most popular Pastis sold across the globe. However, I do recommend you seek out other more refined examples. The better Pastis will be somewhat less sweet than Ricard and Pernod, somewhat more herbal, but often also more intense with star anise and fennel flavors.

But back to the buzz.

I'm not a drunkard. Never have been. Don't like the feeling of being drunk. Never have. But I can't recommend highly enough that simple, Pastis buzz. I wish I understood it better. I wish I could explain its source. What I can do is recommend you explore it.

7 Responses

  1. Vinogirl - May 29, 2009

    I got so drunk on Pernod when I was 17 that I still cannot stand the smell of it ‘x’ years later!

  2. Samantha - May 29, 2009

    I am so with you and know quite well the buzz you speak of. I have so come to love Pastis that I drink it almost all year long, I have stopped using ice though, I find that it creates all these floaties that I just don’t like looking at. Icy cold water, yes, ice non.
    More often than not I am drinking the Garnier, great value and not quite as sweet as Pernod but I had an amazing Pastis at Palate Food & Wine a couple of months ago, I think it was called la Muse Vert but not 100% sure on that…so refined, quite a bit drier, with a long, slightly bitter finish, aboslutely loved it.

  3. Benito - May 29, 2009

    I had pastis for the first time a couple of years ago… I’d always been fascinated by it after reading the Peter Mayle books. And yes, it is definitely a polarizing beverage, but oh, that flavor is wonderful.
    I like to throw a splash into really cold sparkling wine for a fun cocktail. It tastes great but you must be careful, they will sneak up on you.

  4. Gordon - May 29, 2009

    the whole “different kind of buzz” concept is interesting. It is definitely real – but I wonder why?
    And is probably the same reason I get a different caffeine buzz off of different kinds of coffees (and for that matter, whyI could drink 10 cokes and not get the same caffeine rush that 1 cup of coffee would give me)

  5. mydailywine - May 29, 2009

    Hmm. I love all things anise and fennel. But Pastis is like Retsina for me. Tends to be situational whether I dig it or not. Charbay Winery and Distillery makes great limited run version right here in Cali.
    Hope to share one with you sometime this summer!

  6. Marco - May 30, 2009

    We cook with Pernod, but don’t drink it.

  7. Arthut - May 30, 2009

    Those “floaties come about as the oils which carry the aromatic and flavor compounds come out of solution (they dissolve nicely in alcohol but not water) and coalesce – usually on the surface and look like little opalescent flakes.
    They can be induced by a combination of over-icing or over-watering Pastis (but Absinthe as well).
    In Absinthe, this opalescence is a desirable thing as it is thought to indicate good extraction of essence oils in the second distillation. Or so I’ve heard/read….

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