A liqueur, usually yellow-tinged, made by adding flavors of licorice, aniseed, herbs (frequently including sage, rosemary, and thyme), and water to high-alcohol base. This has been a popular peasant drink for centuries in southern France, especially in Languedoc and Provence. A source informs me that the word pastis means "hazy" in Occitan, and this is no doubt a reference to the fact that pastis turns cloudy when water is added. Pastis is a close relative of anis and ouzo.

Moreover, it is reputed to be reasonably close in taste to absinthe. In fact, after the French government outlawed absinthe in 1915, a leading producer of that drink --Henri Pernod--began marketing its pastis as a substitute. Pernod is a leading producer of pastis to this day.

I had my first sip of this liqueur in Paris in 1996. My wife and I went to eat at a restaurant close to the Champs-Elysees, and I ordered one after dinner as a curiosity. The waiter brought me a small glass of pastis and a pitcher of water. When I asked him (in my much-broken French) what the water was for, he replied that it was customary to water down the pastis before drinking, but that where he was from (Marseilles), old men scoffed at this custom and instead drank undiluted shots of the liqueur one after the other. Wanting to experience the France of the French, I took a swig of the raw stuff. It provided a big blast of alcohol, and I decided that it might be prudent to add the water after all. It was a pretty good drink.

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