Along the blue-green shores of Mediterranean coastline- from Lebanon to the South of France, people are celebrating life over tall glasses of anise infused liquor diluted with water. These liquors have unique distilling practices, with family recipes that have been passed down for centuries. Each anise flavored liquor has it’s own flavor, making it a spirit for all occasions. Whether at a wedding, a birthday party, or at the beach- slowly sipping this opalescent cocktail is a leisurely treat.
The anise plant thrives in the temperate Mediterranean climate making it a key ingredient in so many liquors distilled in this region. These drinks vary from country to country, but are all characterized by their sweet flavor and milky-white coloring. The aniseed, used for distillation, contains anethole, an organic compound that emulsifies in water. This ouzu effect gives anise infused liquors an entrancing opaque look when mixed with water.
Grab your TOSSWARE and relax as we sail down the Mediterranean coast to explore some our favorite anise liqueurs and cocktails.
Far from the bustle of Paris is the leisurely, lavender filled countryside of the south of France. Nothing embodies a Provençal afternoon more than a tall glass of pastis in one hand and a pétanque ball in the other. The relaxed pace of life lends itself to sipping a strong drink like Pastis.
The syrupy consistency and strong, sweet flavor of Pastis calls for this high dilution ratio- typically five parts water to one part pastis. This is a drink that would be near impossible to chug, but is best enjoyed with small sips each with a full and distinctive mouthfeel. Unlike other regional variations of aniseed liqueur, Pastis contains both liquorice and aniseed. While similarly flavored, the layering of these two plants gives pastis an unmatched complexity. These ingredients along with fennel are macerated to make Pastis, giving it the name pastis meaning "to mash up." Pastis is best enjoyed outside, a tribute to the Provençal vineyards and fields it is derived from.
The Grecian interpretation of anise infused liquor is Ouzo. This clear spirit is traditionally made with grapes and figs distilled with aniseed in a copper still. Served alongsde mezze, an appetizer-like course filled with savory small plates, Ouzu is a staple of Greek festivities.
Typically served with water and ice on the side, the imbiber will mix two parts water to one part Ouzo for a deceptively strong cocktail. The delicate flavors of fruit, anise, and herbs are light enough to complement a small plate of smoked fish, olives, and feta. From the smallest towns to city centers, you will find ouzeries filled with Greeks relaxing after work, celebrating birthdays, and toasting to the good life.
As we travel along the coastline, we’ll find ourselves in Turkey. One can hardly pass a day in Ankara without seeing men gathered at a cafe, sipping raki and enjoying lively political debate. Raki is also mixed with water giving it the name arslan sütü meaning lion's milk. Arsalan can also be interpreted at strong or brave man, so this drink is known as the milk for strong men.
We've shaken together a variation of this lion's milk with a cocktail that's layered with fresh fruit and herb flavors. Try out a TOSSWARE Rakitini if you’re brave enough!
3 oz Raki
1 teaspoon sugar
1 small cucumber
1 lemon, cut into eighths
4 sprigs of thyme
Pinch of salt
- Start by washing and cutting the lemon and cucumber into half inch squares.
- Add cucumber, lemon, sugar, and salt into a shaker and muddle well. Be sure to muddle the lemon with the peel on to capture the essential lemon oils.
- Once the lemon and cucumber are thoroughly muddled, add fresh thyme sprigs.
- Fill the shaker with ice and pour in 3oz Raki.
- Give it a long (30-60 second) martini shake. Strain into a TOSSWARE Tumbler Jr and garnish with a lemon wedge, slice of cucumber, and sprig of fresh thyme!
Our journey ends in the Middle East where small cups are filled with ice, water, and arak. This strong liquor, known as liquid fire, is made with golden grapes first fermented in barrels. This mixture is then distilled twice at very low temperatures in a copper still, once alone and then again mixed with aniseed. The resulting spirit is strong and potent at 40% - 60% alcohol! Best enjoyed diluted at a one part arak to three parts water ratio, this drink is not one for the weak. Due to it’s high alcohol content, Arak is almost always served with dozens of small plates and appetizers to slow absorption. As the national drink in Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Jordan this is a tasty beverage in high demand across the Eastern Mediterranean.
Even if you can’t travel to the Mediterranean, bring the tastes home with a tall glass of Pastis, Ouzu, Raki, or Arak this spring.