French Language Blog

Just Add Water – Le Pastis Posted by on Apr 15, 2015 in Culture

Photo by cyclonebill on Flickr.

Photo by cyclonebill on Flickr.

Au Sud de la France (In the South of France) there is a famous drink that isn’t wine. It often brings up thoughts of the Mediterranean sun for les Français. C’est le pastis! Un apéritif à base de réglisse parfumé à l’anis (an anise flavored licorice based apératif, or pre-dinner drink).

The name pastis vient d’un mot provençal (comes from a provençal word), and means mixture. En fait, il faut ajouter de l’eau (in fact, you have to add water) to le pastis if you want to create the potent mixture.

When I first tried la boisson alcoolisée (the alcoholic drink) I knew to regarder dans les yeux (look into the eyes) when toasting, but I still had a lot to learn about le pastis. Not knowing that you have to ajouter de l’eau (add water), I poured myself du pastis sans eau (without water) and after one sip I had to spit it out.

The strong taste was too much for mes papilles (my taste buds). I went in to try another sip, thinking it’s just une question d’habitude (a matter of habit). Malheureusement, ce n’était pas le cas (unfortunately, that wasn’t the case). Je pensais que le pastis n’était pas mon truc (I thought that pastis wasn’t my thing).

Then one day mes amis français m’ont invité au bar (my French friends invited me out to a bar) and asked me a question:

“John, tu veux du pastis?”
John, do you want some pastis?

I quickly told them mon histoire d’épouvante (my horror story), which was met with a round of laughter. Mon ami looked at me and said:

“Il faut ajouter de l’eau!”
You have to add water!

I was still sceptic, but I wanted to go in with an open mind. Surprisingly, il m’a plu (I liked it)!

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.


  1. Doug:

    How does le pastis differ from l’absinthe?