Last summer, we were so excited to write about our favorite aperitif, pastis, that Olivia went right out, bought a bottle, and promptly finished it before we had a chance to come up with anything to say about it. Olivia introduced me to the drink when we were studying abroad, explaining to me that it was what old guys in the South of France drank, and it became our go-to: when you drink it, it’s cool and tingly, perfect when it’s hot out. It’s icy cold, crisp, not-too-sweet and not-too-bitter. The anise flavor doesn’t overwhelm you with black licorice flavor, because it’s light enough to be a little floral and minty rather than syrupy (and it’s usually much less sweet than its cousin, absinthe). We usually swirl an ounce of the light green liquid over a bunch of ice and dilute it with at least equal parts water — sometimes more than twice as much — which turns it cloudy and white.
For spring, though?
I’ve never spent more time staring at a bottle of pastis than when we started thinking about how to make a spring cocktail with it. At the bottom of each bottle, pastis is described as “neutral spirits with anise flavor," which made me laugh because neutral spirits is the last thing you’ll be in after a few glasses of pastis. Hemingway wrote, “Pastis tastes like licorice and it has a good uplift, but it drops you just as far.” That’s a little bleak — we were looking for just the uplift, and no drop… and it took about 7 taste tests to get there. Our inspiration was a cocktail from Sauvage, a newish restaurant and “cocktail den” in North Brooklyn. Their version is a little fruity and herbal, but still has a kick from the pastis, beautifully tying together winter and summer flavors. We finally hit those same notes at home by combining Ricard pastis (no, we can’t tell the difference between Ricard and Pernod), Chamomile, Byrrh (another French aperitif made of wine and quinine), and strawberry simple syrup.
No Neutral Spirits - Spring Pastis Cocktail
1 oz pastis
3 oz steeped chamomile tea
2 oz Byrrh
1 tablespoon strawberry simple syrup
To make the strawberry simple syrup, bring half a cup of water, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and 8 large, chopped strawberries to boil. Boil down, stirring, until the strawberries melt into the liquid. Let cool.
Measure all the ingredients into a shaker. Add ice, shake with vigor and force! You can shake your butt too, while you do this. Shake until you can shake no more. Strain (this is very important, you’ll need a strainer to get the strawberry chunks out) into a pretty glass, and try not to drink too quickly — it may not drop you far, but the ride up is a fast one.