Upon the shelves of a shop that sells alcohol, you wouldn’t be alone in wondering which bottle contains the prized and subtle aniseed based drink that the French know and celebrate as Pastis. It’s a drink that is served almost daily within the homes of France as a welcome, and although there are pretenders to the throne, a Frenchman will certainly not buy alternatives to the traditional drink they know and love. It’s a classic mistake of the foreigner to think that there are few differences between Pernod and other Pastis though the two drinks stand miles apart both in production methods and acceptability within French households. Pernod is a different class of Pastis, and more associated with that produced by Prado, less popular on the French mainland, though well known in the United Kingdom.
Taking a look at the those bottles, one would expect to find the Appellation Control sign on the label and certainly those versions of Pastis that exist and are marketed will be controlled for quality and taste.
The origins of pastis date back centuries though the methods employed and recipes used for first class Pastis relate back to a time in history when taste was experimented with until that famous taste that we know and love today was commercialized in the Haute Province region of France, and is now produced by Henri Bardouin, replacing the drink of Absinthe as far back as 1915, when Absinthe was banned.
If buying a Pastis as a special present or presentation to those with whom you are visiting, then the Henri Bardouin is most expensive, though with good reason. The mixture of herbs and spices created by the Distilleries of Forcalquier and Montaigne de Lure has been the most luxurious journey in taste, culminating with a product of high quality that is second to none.
For normal everyday home use, there are other cheaper alternatives, and that which springs immediately to mind at the thought of Pastis is the drink that bears the clear label with the name Pastis across the top of the label and the word Prado across the middle. This is the kind of Pastis that day to day French people drink. It’s a great price, and plays a part in the social interaction of peasants and gentry alike. Pastis Prado has it’s roots firmly laid in the Marseilles district of France and contains licorice as the principle ingredient. It forms a cloudy white drink when iced water is added, and is extremely tasty, helps the digestion, and is acceptable for both ladies and men, making it one to consider when making a choice of which Pastis to buy as typical French.
For those seeking uniqueness of taste, you would not go far wrong with Ricard Pastis, that includes a unique blend anise called the star which is grown on the border between China and Vietnam. The taste really is different from other pastis, though will be enjoyed by those who want something a little more subtle than Prado, and a little less expensive than Bardouin.
The choice is a very widespread one, taking into account the different flavors added to the different types of Pastis, although this guide is intended to set each kind of Pastis apart, enabling the purchaser to make a wise decision. There are no wrongs or rights, though subtle differences in acceptability and taste, putting them in an order of preference that may differ from individual to individual.
*Henri Bardouin – For that special occasion.
*Prado – For a souvenir of France.
*Pernod – In a situation where choice is limited
*Pastis – For everyday French drinking.
Pastis, from it’s humble beginnings, is an everyday drink that is enjoyed and an integral part of French culture and sociable exchange. Your choice depends really upon the reasons for your purchase, though the recommendations above are based on taste, presentation and price.