The strong spirit of the Midi comes in a liquid form called pastis, first made popular in Marseille as a plague remedy; its name comes from the Latin passe-sisit, or thirst quencher.
A pale yellow nectar flavoured with star anise, licorice, vanilla and cinnamon, pastis was first sold by Paul Ricard 17 years after absinthe was banned (the anise taste is similar, only absinthe isn’t as sweet or flavoured with liquorice).
It is especially popular in the south, as an apéritif before lunch and in rounds after work (they say the annual consumption is 23 million bottles a year, although definitely some folks are drinking more than their share). Most people imbibe their pastaga diluted with water and ice, which clouds it up and makes it more palatable. It’s also the base for numerous cocktails.
Pastis is also the name of a very thin pastry used to make a croustade or tourtière aux pommes in southwest France.
Image by Peng