Spirits Close-Up: Pastis

Pastis, cloudy with the addition of water, is a great summer refresher // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

Pastis, cloudy with the addition of water, is a great summer refresher // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

In the waning days of summer, you don’t want to be stuck inside muddling, shaking, and fussing over drinks for your guests. Not while the sun is shining and three friends on the bocce court are calling for a fourth. This month calls for a jug of ice cold water and a bottle of pastis.

Pastis belongs to the Eurasian family of anise-flavored liqueurs, but it also contains licorice root and other botanicals. It’s bottled with added sugar, so it’s a liqueur in name, but a spirit in strength (usually ~40–45% ABV).

The ritual for pastis is very French—the kind of thing you’d do after biking to a countryside bistro. You pour a little in a glass (highball, lowball, snifter, empty mayo jar, whatever) top it off with about five- to six-times as much cold water (still or club soda) and watch it turn cloudy. That’s called louching. Essential oils in the liqueur are insoluble below a certain proof, and they drop out to form a hazy precipitate.

Topping off a dram of Henri Bardouin Pastis with soda water // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

Topping off a dram of Henri Bardouin Pastis with soda water // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

Your local bottle shop should have a few kinds in stock. Pernod is more like absinthe without the wormwood, but it drinks like pastis just the same. Ricard is Pernod’s brother from Marseille, a true pastis, and a little less sweet and more herbal. Henri Bardouin makes a fine pastis in Provence from 65 different plants, herbs, and spices. You could also drink white absinthe (like Copper & Kings’) or Herbsaint like this.

If pastis-and-water is too dry for your tastes, stir some of the liqueur over ice with a dose of simple syrup and a charge of soda water, then strain into a well-chilled glass for a neat frappé.

Don’t worry about being precise with measurements—you’ll be strengthening and diluting your cocktail over a few hours. Just take a sip. Roll some bocce. Wipe the sweat from your brow. Pour in a little more pastis, then more water, and keep topping it off in turn until there’s no daylight left.

 

Related Post: Craft Cocktail: Wilde at Bar Brigade

John Garland About John Garland

John Garland is the Deputy Editor at the Growler Magazine. Find him on twitter (@johnpgarland) or in every coffee shop on West 7th Street.

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