Paris Tips: Shake it up with 3 Classic French Apéritifs
By Theadora Brack
It’s springtime and the lazy, hazy sipping is easy. So let’s celebrate the classic French liqueurs, full-bodied bitters, anisés and wild gentians. The mind squeals with delight!
Here are three apéritifs—along with a few daytime touring suggestions to go with your drinks— that’ll help you ease into “l’heure de apéritif” in harmonious style. I’ll trap the snacks, while you grab our sketchbook pad. It’s high time to chill!
Craving for a taste of the past? Order a Picon. Created by Gaétan Picon in 1837, this bittersweet blend of oranges and deep blue gentian flowers is served with a demi-pression (draft beer), into which you pour the Picon-bière. Aromatic and richly colored, the orange-toffee flavored brew combines with the hops to pack a power punch!
Where to go? I’d trek it to Montmartre, and work up a thirst with a stroll by Picasso’s studio at the Bateau Lavoir (13 Rue Ravignan), Van Gogh’s old digs at 54 rue Lepic, or the Chat Noir at 84 Blvd. Rouchechouart (where Erik Satie once tickled the ivories).
Looking for a classic French bar (with affordable prices)? Stop by Chez Ammad at Hotel Clermont at 18 Rue Véron in Abbesses. This is where Edith Piaf stayed in the early thirties, while performing in Pigalle. Non, Je ne regrette rien!
Here’s the scoop! After the 1915 ban on Absinthe, folks had to make do with Pastis, which tastes nearly the same but no longer induces appearances of la Fée Verte (the Green Fairy) as the hallucinogenic muse of artists and poets. Opalescent green in color with a distinctive anise taste, it’s usually mixed with water and ice. For a literary twist, add champagne instead of water for a concoction Ernest Hemingway called, “death in an afternoon.”
If you find yourself in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, look for the Closerie des Lilas, where a plaque embedded in the bar marks Hemingway’s favorite seat or the former residence of Julia Child at 81 rue de l’Université (she had her own homemade absinthe recipe!). The Musée d’Orsay is another option. Take note of those cloudy green glasses in the works of Lautrec, Degas, or Van Gogh. It is easy being vert!
In 1885 Fernand Muraux found a recipe in Switzerland and introduced Suze (named for a Swiss river). Another gentian-based apéritif, this old-school bar favorite is typically served on ice with equal parts water or orange juice. Challenge your drinking companions to describe its strange and peculiar flavor!
Muse in a bottle
Picasso once said, “I put all the things I like into my pictures—too bad for the things, they just have to put up with it.” Yes, the iconic bottle played muse to Picasso back in 1912. His collage “Verre et bouteille de Suze” is a favorite. Looking for another masterpiece? Stop by the Musée Carnavalet (where you’ll spot Steinlen’s original Chat Noir sign!).
Covet vintage barware?
Porte de Vanves Flea Market has a groovy mix of kitschy ice buckets, ashtrays, bottle openers and glasses.
Looking for something specific? Ask dealers Danielle and Pierre Aurillon. Their booth is located across from the soccer field. While browsing through their swanky wares, don’t overlook the absinthe spoons, the tastevins (wine tasting cups) or the café glazed wine pitchers.
Once you have the proper gear, Suze, Picon and Pastis can still be purchased at most French grocery stores for under €10. I’d pick up a bottle or two for your cocktail party guests back home. It’s another win-grin for all!