Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pastis vs Anisette *Updated*

I am very familiar with the whole anise flavored liqueur family since my father-in-law was very fond of Anisette. I have tried the offerings from various countries including Absinthe, Arak, Ouzo, Pastis and Anisette.

For those who are unfamiliar, here is a little background on Pastis and Anisette.

Pastis is an anise flavored liqueur and aperitif from France. It is one of the most popular beverages in France. Pastis is especially popular in the south of France where it is associated with Provençal lifestyle along with Pétanque (a game similar to Bocce) and drinking rosé wine.

The story of pastis began when absinthe was banned in France. The producers of absinthe decided to create a drink that resembled absinthe, but with out the wormwood, which was the ingredient which got absinthe banned in the first place. It was to have a more robust anise flavor, using star anise, sugar and a lower alcohol content, between 40%-45% abv whereas absinthe is usually between 45%-75% abv. Voila, pastis was born.

Pastis has a transparent yellowish-brown color when undiluted. It is meant to be diluted with cold water before drinking. I learned this the hard way of coarse, I drank it straight... from what I have heard in general it is supposed to be a 5:1 ratio of water to pastis, but to each his own, so it is usually served along side a jug of cold water and ice cubes (optional), which if used should be added only after the water has been added to avoid crystallization.

I tried Pastis Juvanis (45% abv) with a 4:1 ratio of water to pastis, when the water is added to the pastis it goes from transparent yellow to an almost opaque milky white-yellow (see the first image in the post). The palate had notes of liquorice (réglisse), anise and fennel. It is not overly sweet or cloying, which I liked. The addition of water really helps bring out the flavors.

I remember vividly when I went to visit Southern France, we would go explore a small town each day. On our way in we would pass a small brasserie or a café and there would be some elderly gentlemen sitting around the table with a bottle of water and pastis sipping and chatting. Hours later when we finished sightseeing in that town we would see the same gentlemen sitting around the table with their cloudy coloured pastis in hand, still sipping and chatting.

Anisette (aka Anis) is anise flavored liqueur mainly consumed in the Mediterranean area including France, Spain and Italy but may be found in Portugal and Mexico as well. Anisette tends to have a lower alcohol content (well not with the anisette I tried for this post) and be sweeter than other anise flavored liqueurs, such as Pastis. Similarly, anisette was created as an alternative to absinthe. Anisette is made primarily with aniseed unlike pastis which is made primarily with star anise. Anisette can be drank straight or prepared in a similar way to pastis with water. I reccomend adding water.

The anisette I tried for this post was Phénix (45% abv), originally manufactured in Algeria by Moïse Taieb, it is now produced in Roanne, France.

According to Arabic Liqour:
"Anisette Phénix originally is an Algerian Jewish aperitif now produced in France. It is particularly associated with Jewish pieds-noirs, European colonists with French citizenship in Algeria. At some point in time in the twentieth century production moved from Algeria to France due to the unstable situation in Algeria, especially for Jews...According to the bottle it is made by macerating anise grains in a neutral grain spirit and subsequently distilling it. It is very sweet because of the added sugar (it is sweeter than pastis; arak is unsweetened) and it should be diluted with water."
I have also tried Anisette Marie Brizard but it was so long ago I can hardly remember how it tasted.

The anisette had many of the same flavors as the pastis: liquorice (réglisse), anise, fennel and additional hints of coriander and mint, but it was much sweeter than the pastis. When water is added to the anisette it becomes cloudy white, but not as opaque as pastis.

Bottom line:
I personally liked the pastis better than the anisette, in the end it is a matter of taste. If you like anise and liquorice in general try sampling both pastis and anisette before going out to buy a bottle. This way you can see if you like anise flavored liqueur at all and if you do which one you prefer.

à la tienne!


bricogirl said...

Gotta watch out for that Pastis. It has a surprise kick to it. I think those old men just order one for the whole afternoon!

Faune said...


Thats why you gotta cut it with some water. And yes, I too think those old guys were sipping from the same drink all afternoon. LOL.