There are some wonderful traditions in France and none more so than the ‘apéritif’ before a meal and then the ‘digestif’ to complete it and round it off in a very civilised manner. L’heure de l’apérifit is taken very seriously in France, no matter where you happen to be. It is a tradition that has been around for decades and there are many apéritifs which have been produced over a very long period time.
I have always loved Pastis and Ricard which are both made from ‘anise’. I have always liked aniseed flavours so these two aperitifs fit the bill perfectly. There are many variations of this particular apéritif and they include Mauresque which is Pastis mixed with orgeat syrup, Perroquet, Pastis mixed with mint syrup and Tomate, Pastis mixed with grenadine syrup and they are all gorgeous drinks to have before sitting down to a meal. Traditionally Pastis and Ricard are always served with salted peanuts which are placed on the bars of restaurants and cafés all over France.
There are many apéritifs which are very traditional and really quite special and this includes another of my favourites which comes from Gascony. It is called Floc de Gascogne and is a blend of wine and Armagnac. On very special occasions I do like to serve this particular apéritif to people who have come over to celebrate with us. It is the perfect French drink to serve just before a meal with lots of lovely hot hors d’oeuves.
Then there are the many digestifs which round off any meal so incredibly well. I have my favourites of these too, and am very fond of Poire Manguin. I visited this estate in Avignon for the first time many moons ago and every year I am sent a bottle of this delicious alcohol as a Christmas present and every year when we celebrate the festive season we treat ourselves to a glass or two of Poire Manguin after dinner.
One very famous digestif is called Roque Eau de Vie de Vieille Prune and it is a very traditionally made alcohol that is really quite strong. After a hearty meal this 45% proof drink really does the trick at settling your stomach, which after all is what a digestif is supposed to do. ‘Eau de Vie’ translated to English literally means ‘water of life’ and has been produced in France for centuries. It is a colourless brandy that can be made out of a variety of fruits including apples which makes the wonderful drink called Calvados or Mirabelle which is made out of yellow plums. But there are many others as well.
Apéritifs and digestifs before and after a meal is a wonderful French tradition that makes eating good food that much better. It is a very civilised tradition that has lasted decades if not centuries, and although in our home we reserve this tradition for special occasions, when we travel to France it becomes the ritual it has always been in this marvellous country and I have to say it is one that we thoroughly enjoy.