Absinthe was once painted as a hallucination-inducing, degenerate spirit. Though that is known to be a fairy tale today, its illicit lure remains. After a ban in France in 1915, a lower-proof, licorice-flavored spirit was formulated in the early 1930s called pastis, using a unique blend of Provençal herbs. Today, it’s easy to find a French bar lined with bottles of Pernod or Ricard, but finding pastis on a cocktail menu itself — at least in the U.S. — is far less frequent. On a hot day, a glass of pastis diluted with ice-cold water, turning the transparent green spirit cloudy, can be quite refreshing, but incorporating these flavors into a cocktail can be a bit tricky.
Barman Will Elliott knew well in advance of the opening of Brooklyn’s latest fine-dining haunt, Sauvage, that he wanted to put a pastis cobbler on the menu to go along with the restaurant’s French aesthetic. “I wanted to avoid some of the single-note pitfalls that pastis can sometimes incur,” notes Elliott. “I really wanted to round off some of the edges frequently associated with creating pastis cocktails, so I chose two modifiers to ‘warm’ and ’round’ [the drink]: chamomile and rose.”
Maurin Quina, a hard-to-find French apéritif made from cherries, cinchona bark and almonds that features an iconic green devil on the label, is also used in this cobbler. Bright lemon citrus and floral flavors from Combier Rose complement the still-noticeable anise backbone, all tied together by a chamomile aromatic from the grappa that is also sprayed on the side of the glass to increase its potency. An arrangement of mint, cherry and chamomile sits atop the drink as one sips from its metal straw.
Similar to the way Sauvage’s chef, Lisa Giffen, focuses on local producers for the restaurant’s dishes, Elliott incorporates many rare and small-production spirits into his drinks, including the Maurin Quina and an Italian pastis called Argalà, meaning “happy” in the Occitan dialect found largely in southern France. “The pastis I chose is an iconoclastic version of what most people have had. It leads with dried herbs — even bordering on a savory profile — including sage, oregano and other darker, ‘crushed’ or ‘bruised’ herbal notes.” It’s a combination that even Paul Ricard might have felt attained the “sunshine in a bottle” flavor he was attempting to capture with his own pastis, and with this drink, Elliott’s pastis cobbler sets the bar for not only elegance, but what can be done with pastis in cocktails. Enjoy.
Servings: 1 cocktail
1 teaspoon Chamomile Grappa
1 teaspoon Combier Rose
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce Maurin Quina
1 1/4 ounces Argalà Pastis
- Combine pastis, Quina and lemon juice into a cobbler shaker.
- Whip shake briefly with ice and strain over pebble ice in a tall Veritage glass.
- Top with a teaspoon of Combier Rose and Chamomile Grappa.
- Garnish with mint, cherry and chamomile blossoms, and add a metal straw.
Prep time: 3 minutes