Ricard PastisThis French licorice based spirit is one of Europe’s and the world’s best-selling spirit brands. It dates back to 1932 when the 22 year-old Paul Ricard created his aniseed-flavored drink and established a firm in Marseille to produce and market what he called pastis.
Although the firm of Ricard is still based in Marseille, production now takes place in Bessan, a small village in Southern France (blending and bottling also takes place in Bordeaux and Lille).
Ricard is flavored with licorice root, the bark of which is shaved off by hand to leave the core which is then shredded and placed in a percolator through which alcohol and purified water at 42% abv is forced under pressure. This is repeated three times so that the alcohol takes on the flavor and aroma of the licorice. This same process is also used to extract flavors of seven different aromatic herbs from Provence. The other key ingredient to Ricard is green anise and fennel, the essence of which is rectified to produce anethole essence.
These three separate ingredients are blended together with neutral alcohol, and sugar (less than 100 grams of sugar per liter). Caramel is also added, which adds to the distinctive yellow color the licorice content gives Ricard. The anethole is extremely rich in flavor and only 1.5 to 2 grams are required to flavor a liter of Ricard. The finished product is then triple filtered through mineral and cellulose filters before bottling.
It is the delicate dilution of anethole in Ricard which makes the spirit turn milky when water is added. Ricard should be stored at above 12°C and away from direct light. If exposed to colder temperatures the anethole will start to crystallize and impair the look and flavor of the product. To return the product to its normal state, place the bottle in hot water and shake it from time to time until the crystals disappear. To enjoy Ricard at its best, it should be consumed within three years of purchase.
Ricard’s label has always featured an acanthus leaf, an ornamental plant from the south of France. This leaf is now recognized as a distinctive mark of the brand and of pastis in general. In more recent years a bright yellow sun logo has also been introduced to the bottles neck.
Ricard is traditionally served one part to five parts chilled water with ice. Due to the anethole within pastis being so sensitive to the cold, the water should be added first and then, a few moments later – the ice cubes. The dilution on one to five and the use of chilled water is critical to enjoying the finished drink. In France, Ricard tends to be served in 20ml measures diluted with 100ml of chilled water.