Absinthe, Anis & Pastis
Both anis and pastis are produced by flavouring ethyl alcohol with natural extracts of star anise (Lllicium verum) from Southern China and North Vietman. There are numerous varieties of anise, notably green anise (pimpinella anisum) and fennel (Foeniclum vulgare) from the south of France, but star anise is considered the best for flavouring.
As well as anise (which tastes somewhat like wormwood) both anis and pastis also contain angelica and cloves. Brands may use as many as forty other different herbs and spices, including cardamom, black and white pepper, artemisia, centaury, nutmeg and cinnamon.
Pastis must contain less than 100 grams of sugar per litre meaning that it is classified a spirit and not a liqueur. Conversely, anis brands tend to have over 100 grams of sugar per litre and so are classified liqueurs. Pastis must be a minimum of 40% alcohol by volume.
According to EU law, Pastis must also contain natural extracts of liquorice root (glycyrrhiza glabra), which implies the presence of colorants known as 'chalcones' as well as glycrrhizic acid (the active ingredient of liquorice), the minimum and maximum levels of which must be 0.05 and 0.05 grams per litre respectively.
Artemisia (Artemisia vulgaris) - Related to wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), artemisia grows in Provence and adds a slight green colour and a touch of bitterness to the drink.
Centaury (Centaurium erythraea) - Another plant from pastis' home in Provence, this is often associated with artemisia. The combination of these two plants is thought to enhance the refreshing qualities of some brands.
Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) - From India, cardamom contributes a mellow and velvety quality to the combination.
Tonka Bean (Dipteryx odorata) - This South America addition offers mild tobacco flavours.
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) - From Ceylon, this softens and adds peppery aromas.
Clove (Eugenia caryophyllus) - The dried buds of a tropical tree, cloves add piquant flowery notes.
Licorice root - A shrub which grows in Turkey and on the banks of the Euphrates in Syria.
PASTIS - HOW TO SERVE
Pastis is best served with chilled water as an aperitif. Most brands recommend one part of pastis to five parts water. The pastis should be poured into the glass, then water chilled to 4C added. The small jug of water which should be served with a glass of pastis is called a 'broc'. If ice is to be used to cool the drink then this should be added last. Ice should never be added directly to pastis as the extreme cold will upset the delicate suspension of anise in the spirit causing unsightly platelets to appear.