On the way from Arles to Aix-en-Provence, my girlfriend and I took a slight detour and spent the afternoon at the beach in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Camargue. We had a quick lunch at a beach-side restaurant, then dashed across the hot sand towards the sea. After spending 30 minutes or so soaking up the sunshine, it was time for a cold drink. We headed further along the beach and found a table in the shade at the very laid-back Bamboo Palm Beach snack bar. A couple of tables over were two very chic ladies enjoying a lively conversation along with their lunch. I couldn’t help but snap a photo. I think they are the epitome of “joie de vivre.”
While the ladies were wisely drinking water at lunchtime, perhaps before dinner, they had a pastis.
Pastis is the traditional French anise-based aperitif, which according to this article in France Today, was first introduced by Paul Ricard, a Marseillais, in the 1920’s after the French government relaxed the 1915 ban on absinthe. Absinthe was still forbidden, however, wormwood-free absinthe-like drinks were allowed. Ricard’s brew was considered too high in alcohol, so it was not until 1932, after he and others had successfully lobbied for a change to France’s alcohol content laws, that Pastis de Marseille became readily available. Its closely-guarded secret recipe, which includes star anise from China, licorice from the Middle East and plants from Provence, is unchanged since 1932.
My husband likes to have his pastis as the French do. Pour one part (50 ml or about 1 1/2 oz) pastis into a highball glass, add five parts chilled water, then add a few ice cubes and garnish with a slice of lemon. The order of actions is important if you want to obtain the mysterious ‘milk of Marseille’ effect.
I prefer a slightly fruitier version. For my La Marseillaise: pour one part (50 ml or about 1 1/2 oz) pastis into a highball glass, add one part freshly-squeezed lemon juice, one part simple syrup, three parts chilled sparkling water, drop in a few ice cubes and garnish with a sprig of mint.
Santé et bonne fin de semaine!
p.s. This is my 10th blog post. A big thank you to everyone following along!