Pastis country, the village of Nadal in southwest France.
Consider the Apéritif
Summer will soon be here (please). Your icebox will be filled with rosé, and the blender ready to amaze your guests with all kinds of frozen concoctions. Allow me to suggest alternatives to prepare your palate for a summer repast or quench a thirst by the pool.
My family used to visit relatives in the remote farming village of Nadal in the French départment known as the Lot, named for the river that wanders through it.
Nadal’s roads were just wide enough for one tractor to pass. In the evenings, we all gathered in the road for a rough game of pétanque, during which my brother-in-law and I enjoyed a glass of “Ricard”, both a brand and generic name in France for an anise-flavored liqueur known as pastis.
The licorice taste of pastis, derived from distilling the star anise plant, may not be to everyone’s taste. However, it is customary to add water to a small portion of pastis, which transforms the amber liquid to a milky delight. And, by varying the amount of water, you can find your own happy medium, the result of which is a refreshing apéritif.
Don’t let the licorice description fool you. Pastis is not Good & Plenty; it is usually bottled at 40-50 percent ABV, meaning, it’s got a jolt similar to vodka or tequila.
Many Americans know the Pernod brand better than the original Ricard. Whatever brand you choose, you are in for an appetite stimulating treat.
The pétanque is optional.
I realized a longtime dream in 2006 by attending Wimbledon in person.
Notebooks from that period indicate my flight landed at Heathrow early on the morning of June 27, after which I made a quick wardrobe change at Charlotte Street Hotel, picked up my grounds-pass at the front desk, and hopped the underground to Wimbledon.
My Grounds Pass allowed for my usual habit of roaming the field courts, as at the US Open. The prior day had been rainy, so I was seeing catch-up matches featuring many Ladies’ first– or second-round matches.
And, what better way to roam the Wimbledon grounds than with a storied Pimm’s Cup in my hand?
Ever since that first Pimm’s Cup, I’ve kept a bottle of old No.1 at the ready when June rolls around – Wimbledon or no Wimbledon. There’s just something about a Pimm’s that makes it better when imbibed outdoors. While it is a liqueur, made from a gin–base with spices, I think of Pimm’s as more of an apéritif, a light prelude to a meal. Or, it can be a warm weather refresher on its own.
The classic Pimm’s Cup cocktail has many varieties. Sam Dangremond got it right, in his recipe for Town & Country magazine: couple of ounces of No.1, double that amount of lemonade, add mint or cucumber.
I like to substitute ginger ale and club soda for the lemonade and add a lemon peel. As with pastis, finding the best balance between Pimm’s and mixer calls for personal experimentation.
Lawn tennis, optional.
- Tom McDermott