While not necessarily the best pastis, Ricard takes first place as it’s by far the most influential. Ricard Pastis was the first pastis to be commercialised and is now deeply ingrained into French culture.
Some absinthe and ouzo enthusiasts may find it a little cloying. However, its sugar content is offset by deep notes of liquorice while the anise dries the palate. It’s a classic beverage best enjoyed at a 1:5 water ratio or more.
"The quintessential pastis is by far the easiest to find and simply wonderful to enjoy in a laidback way."
A far more artisinal pastis, Henri Bardouin is less known than those produced by the Pernod-Ricard giant. Arguably the connoisseur’s pastis, Henri Bardouin is produced in Provence using 65 different herbs and spices.
As a result, it delivers complexity with an overall dry palate and a refreshing finish.
Until Pernod and Ricard merged in 1975, 51 was the former’s reborn flagship product following the Second World War. 51 is slightly lighter and more refreshing whereas Ricard is comparatively bolder and more bitter.
Despite now being owned by the same company, the Ricard-51 debate rages on and both sides continue to have loyal fans. We’d argue that 51 is a better option for cocktails as it won’t be quite as bold. Ultimately, it’s up to you!
Charles-Frédéric Berger was initially an absinthe producer in Switzerland. His sons moved its production to Marseille in 1878. When absinthe was banned a few decades later, they produced various anisette drinks.
It wasn’t until after the Second World War that Berger released its first pastis. It has a distinctive liquorice note that nicely offsets the anise.
Emmanuel Casablanca first launched his pastis brand in 1925 on the island of Corsica before transferring its production to Marseille.
Today, it continues to celebrate its Corsican origins as can be seen on the label. As it features liquorice root that has been steeped and then blended into the drink, it has a particularly strong flavour.
Technically speaking, Pernod Anise isn’t a pastis nor is it absinthe. In fact, it’s often credited as its precursor as it was first launched in 1918.
When Pernod’s production halted during the Second World War, it returned with Pastis 51 following the liberation. However, Pernod Anise has since been reintroduced and offers an intriguing alternative to classic pastis.
As it doesn’t use liquorice nor star anise, the green anise has imparted its distinctive colour. As a result, it’s significantly less bitter and has a sharper flavour.
Like Pernod Anise, Herbsaint isn’t pastis but an anise liqueur. Indeed, it was created in New Orleans as an absinthe substitute by J. Marion Legendre in 1934. It was initially created as a substitute for the local Sazerac cocktail.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that the Sazerac Company acquired it in 1949. Over the years, the beverage was weakened and reformulated. However, Sazerac rereleased the original formula in 2009.
Where To Buy Pastis In The USA?
While absinthe was widely successful in the USA, pastis never really took off in the same way. During the interim years before it was commercialised, the American market instead turned to other anisette drinks from the Mediterranean like sambuca and ouzo.
Similarly, local products were created as substitutes before the absinthe ban was eventually lifted. Therefore, the American pastis market is quite niche even if there is some demand.
Therefore, buying pastis can be quite challenging. If you shop around, the chances are that you’ll find a bottle of Ricard in a local store. Nevertheless, your options will be limited.
For instance, Reserve Bar only retails Ricard. Meanwhile, Drizly has a modest selection but it greatly depends on where you live given that it works with local liquor stores.
Finally, absinthe specialists will occasionally offer a small selection of pastis, too. Although pastis is often considered a poor imitation, there are some enthusiasts who believe that it has earned a place of its own.
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