Tasty Tips…French Aperitifs

ImageTerrace weather is here and having a drink at a strategically placed people-watching café is one of the pleasures of Paris.  Here are some tips on some of France’s favorite after-six drinks.

A bitter aperitif invented in Paris in 1846 by Joseph Dubonnet. Dubonnet is made from wines from Roussillon, plant extracts and the bark of quinine, a South American tree introduced into Europe in the 17th century by Spanish missionaries. Its flavor is very sweet, fruity, resembling blackcurrant. The original recipe is 14.8% alcohol per volume but another red Dubonnet and a white Dubonnet at 19% alcohol per volume were created for the American market. It can be enjoyed straight or in a cocktail.

An apéro obtained by the flavoring of a mixture of wine (75% minimum) and neutral alcohol with plant extracts like absinthe (in red vermouth), and artemisia (in white vermouth). It has between 14.5 and 22% alcohol. There are several different types of vermouth, dry vermouth (50 to 60g of sugar/L), which is clear, and rosso vermouth (100 to 150g of sugar/L), which is sweeter and caramel colored. Noilly Prat is the most commonly known commercial brand of French Vermouth. Italy produces the Martini and Cinzano.

Campari is an Italian bitter. It can be enjoyed straight or in cocktails, the most famous being the Americano, created in 1917 in honor of the American soldiers who defended Europe. For an Americano, just add vermouth and fizzy water.

Pineau des Charentes
The Charentes, a department in central France named after the Charente river, is famous for Cognac and Pineau. Pineau was invented when a winemaker in the Charentes poured grape must accidentally into a barrel containing cognac. It is a sweet strong wine.

Lillet is an aperitif produced in Podensac (a commune in the Gironde department) since 1887.  Red or white, it is made through the maceration of quinine bark and plants in a mixture of citrus fruit extracts, noble wines and cognac.  It is then aged in oak barrels.

First sold in pharmacies because of its healing qualities, Byrrh was created in 1870 in Thuir, in the western Pyrenees, from carignan and grenache wines and flavored with various spices.

Suze is an aperitif based on the maceration in alcohol of gentiane roots from the Auvergne, citrus flavors and aromatic plants.  It is a bittersweet beverage with a subtle flavor.

This summery aperitif became popular when absinthe was banned in France. Unchanged since 1932, its recipe includes anis stars from China and Vietnam, licorice, plants, water, and alcohol. Add Sirop d’Orgeat and you have a Mauresque cocktail. Sirop d’Orgeat is obtained by the cooking of ground almonds in syrup. Water and orange blossoms are often added.

Pastis à l’ancienne
An aperitif rich in flavors and aromats, Pastis à l’ancienne is an anis liqueur with lots of spices (cinammon, badiane, nutmeg, pepper) and herbs from Haute-Provence (sage, armoise, centaurée). After maceration, the product is either distilled or filtered.  Caramel may be added. According to European Economic Community standards, the anethol content (aromatic substance of anis) of pastis must be at least 1.5g and a maximum of 2g per liter.

Get 27
A liqueur made from spearmint, alcohol, water and sugar, it was named after its creators Jean et Pierre Get, and is called Get 27 or Get 31, according to its percentage of alcohol content.