Pastis – Mixology Monday


Pernod is intense. And lot’s of people find the pungent combination of star anise and aromatic herbs quite unpleasant. To be honest, anise used to be on my top five hated foods list as of four months ago. I didn’t really discriminate between licorice and anise, either. Nearly everything with those flavors, especially liquor, tasted completely foul to me. I did like fennel, tarragon, and fennel seeds, but any type of candy or spirit was way out of bounds.

Pastis - Mixology Monday

My top five hated list is the culmination of the various food and drink that I find hard to pass between my lips. For the most part, I really like everything, but there are those few things that just make my palaette very angry. Items on the list include salmon (I like all other kinds of fish, cooked, raw, cured, etc., but salmon is just gross, though I almost like it in sushi), oatmeal (I liked steel cut oats cooked with buttermilk… once), nori (I like other kinds of seaweed (e.g. kombu, but that’s mostly used for flavoring and MSGey goodness). Nori, though, just makes me want to gag; I really love sushi, so I must conquer this as well).

You may remember me hinting at this before, but I undertake epic food quests to like the things that are on my most hated list. I’m not sure why I do this. My current conquest, though, which is nearly complete, is anise
flavor. I’ve gone from dreading anything containing pastis, to seeking out recipes just to experience new ways of adding its subtle, or not so subtle, flavors to cocktails. How did I do this? The trick is rather simple: keep drinking the stuff until you like it. I can’t count the number of times I sit down and force myself to sip a shot of Pernod, grimacing and doing my damndest to enjoy it. After a few weeks, though, I almost looked forward to my semi-nightly libation, and before I knew it, I was looking up pastis recipes with glee.

There is a great article by Jeffrey Steingarten that covers epic quests and my basic desires for undertaking them. Thanks to Katarina (commenter over on Slakethirst) for point this article out.

I looked through tons of recipes in order to pick one out for Mixology Monday, but I kept coming back to the Balloon Cocktail (what I like to call the Calcutta).

The Calcutta

  • 1 1/2oz rye whiskey
  • 1 1/2oz pernod
  • 1 1/2oz sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 1 1/2t egg white (optional)

Shake with ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

From: The Gentleman’s Companion Volume II: The Exotic Drinking Book, Charles H. Baker, Jr.

I did a post on The Calcutta before, but I’d like to comment even more on the flavor. This cocktail is so well-balanced, with the pastis playing a major role yet not overpowering the cocktail. With every sip, you are drawn to examine the combination thoughtfully, and even by the end, you are left wondering how it was created.

This Mixology Monday is being hosted by our knowledgeable cocktailian from Seattle over at Cocktail Chronicles. Give his blog a visit for the round-up and for links to other participating posts.

8 Responses to “Pastis – Mixology Monday”

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8 Comments to “ Pastis – Mixology Monday”
  1. […] First out of the gate (or in my in-box, anyway), was Rick at Kaiser Penguin. Rick falls into the “I used to hate anise, but now it’s kinda grown on me” category, due mainly to an intense effort on his part to cozy up to the once-loathesome flavor. Rick shares the recipe for the Calcutta (listed as the Balloon Cocktail in Baker’s Gentleman’s Companion), a mix of equal parts rye, pastis and sweet vermouth, with a little orange bitters to make it interesting and some egg white to give it body. Check out Rick’s experience in his Mixology Monday post. […]

  2. RickNo Gravatar says:

    I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on this fine cocktail if you venture to make one for yourselves!

  3. JoeNo Gravatar says:

    I perused your dicussion on cocktail chronicals…ginger could be a fun topic for your hosting (I have been on a giner kick since moving out here…). Or how about “Flamed”…drinks you light on fire….should make for some nice pictures for the blogs…

  4. CraigerNo Gravatar says:

    I have to admit that any drink containing either anise OR licorice flavor would be a veritable Everest for me, as I’ve never been able to get past even the smallest taste of either (My closest brush with death being the time I unwittingly downed a hearty shot of Akavit as part of a group toast). Speaking of which, could any of you wise folks enlighten me as to the difference between licorice and anise? (I never knew there was one!)

    If it helps, I find Jagermeister rather tasty, and someone once told me that it contains anise and/or licorice flavors…so apparently I *can* tolerate it in certain amounts and mixed with other things.

  5. RickNo Gravatar says:


    As always, Wikipedia enlightens us as to the differences:

    Licorice – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Licorice
    Anise – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anise

    Although Jägermeister does contain a bit of licorice flavor, it is definitely less than most other liquors that contain any kind of anise flavor. It contains some 56 other herbs that make up the rest of its flavor. I have never been a huge fan, but I can honestly say I just haven’t had it that often.

    As a plan of attack, I would pick up a bottle of Pernod ($25) and start trying drinks that only have a subtle hint of anise flavor (e.g. Sazerac, Monkey Gland, Test Pilot, etc. – I’m sure others could expand this list for me). It won’t take long before you begin to appreciate how a subtle amount of anise flavor really heightens the complexity of a cocktail. Once you’ve tackled that… well, come back and I will show you to your next task… young padawan.

    You may also try any of the following foods: fennel, fennel seeds, tarragon. These are much less pungent, but work exactly the same way, imparting a subtle complexity to a recipe.

  6. EricNo Gravatar says:

    Yes! Sazerac. it is superb!

  7. KristinNo Gravatar says:

    I bought a bottle of pastis (Ricard) about 6 months ago for a French beef recipe. Then, I tried drinking it mixed with water. I found that I was not looking forward to it!! I’d like to try the Calcutta, however, I’d checked everywhere in Victoria, BC and Sequim, WA where I live for the orange bittlers. Would it be okay with regular bitters? Would it be good or should I search the internet for the orange?

  8. RickNo Gravatar says:


    I’ve got two sources for you:

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Kaiser Penguin is a cocktail blog featuring original recipes, homemade ingredients, classic cocktails, and tiki drinks.

Why on Earth did you name your blog “Kaiser Penguin?”

It is a well-known fact that penguins are members of high society and enjoy fine cocktails. Our very own kaiser penguin would like me to mention that he also enjoys various treats from the sea.

Contact: rick@kaiserpenguin.com