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What’s a Substitute for Pastis? The Answer!

If you have ever strolled the streets of Paris or sat in a French café at dusk, you have seen Pastis.

Pastis is a French liqueur that tastes like anise, or black licorice. It is commonly found as an afternoon aperitif in the southeast of France.

It derives its flavor from licorice and star anise- sometimes fennel- and the result is a herbaceous and aromatic spirit that you enjoy alongside a carafe of ice water, diluted.

What’s a Substitute for Pastis?

Pastis is distinctively flavored, but a good substitute is Pernod, particularly an herbal flavored Pernod made by Sazerac called Herbsaint. Since Pastis is considered to be anise liqueur and a cousin to ouzo and sambuca, these may also be good substitutes. Other licorice or anise-flavored liqueurs that may work include Anisette and Absinthe- or, you can choose a flavorless liquor like vodka and infuse it with aniseed or anise essential oil.

What's a Substitute for Pastis?
What’s a Substitute for Pastis?

Want to learn more about the best substitute for Pastis? Keep reading!

Drinking and Enjoying Pastis

There is a classic way to enjoy Pastis that makes it distinctive from other aperitifs and cocktails.

The Pastis must be diluted with water to drink or else it simply tastes strong and astringent.

Generally, you can mix one part Pastis to five or more parts of water for a refreshing ratio that makes the perfect sip.

Make sure the water is very cold and serve the Pastis with a balloon glass if you want to keep it old-school.

You can add ice to the water to retain the chill- but don’t put ice directly in your Pastis or it could cause crystallization.

Some like to serve the Pastis neat with a carafe of ice water on the side, while others serve a tall, cold glass of water with a snifter or shot glass of Pastis on the side- the choice is yours.

This allows the drinker to dilute and mix their Pastis to their desired strength, as it can taste astringent and be drying on the tongue when too strongly mixed.

When mixed with water, you may notice that the Pastis becomes cloudy and opaque.

A normal serving of Pastis contains about the same amount of alcohol as a can of beer or glass of red wine.

Pernod is a great substitute for Pastis
Pernod is a great substitute for Pastis

Suitable Substitutes for Pastis

While Pastis is a one-of-a-kind spirit, it may not be readily available everywhere. In these instances, you may need to find a suitable substitute for the aperitif.

If you consider some of the inherent features of Pastis, such as the fact that the spirit is macerated and not distilled, any anise liqueur is not going to do.

Furthermore, Pastis’ close cousin Sambucca is sweet- perhaps too sweet to be the right substitute in some preparations and applications.

Pernod is a kind of Pastis, but much more widely available and versatile.

Pernod makes a good substitute for Pastis when it comes to sipping or in a variety of dishes and recipes.

Both taste like black licorice with a distinctive anise aroma.

Absinthe can be used as a Pastis substitute
Absinthe can be used as a Pastis substitute

Serve Pernod neat with ice water on the side, but do not drink it neat. It is intensely flavored and should be diluted to taste by the person enjoying it.

Some mixologists recommend one part Pastis to five parts of water until your taste buds acclimate to the flavor.

As for cooking, you can substitute Pernod for Pastis in many dishes, but most particularly in the region’s famous Bouillabaisse fish stew.

Pastis is much more intense and stronger flavored than Pernod, so you may need to use a bit more Pernod when using it as a substitution.

Frequently Asked Questions About What’s a Substitute for Pastis

Where to find Pastis?

Pastis is traditionally found in France, particularly the Marseille region where shoppers will find over 75 different types of pastis and licorice-flavored liqueurs. It can also be ordered online for delivery to the buyer’s door in many regions.

How to make Pastis?

You can make your own variation on Pastis by infusing vodka or gin with select seeds and herbs. Seal the jar and stir it from time to time, keeping it in a cool, dark place for about a month. Choose additives like star anise, fennel seed, and aniseed, and add a bit of sugar to taste. When it is ready, strain it to remove the seeds and herbs before serving.

What can you cook with Pastis?

Pastis can be used in cooking, and it adds an interesting, herbaceous flavor to many foods. Many fish and seafood dishes get unique flavor from Pastis, as do some chicken and egg dishes. In fact, Pastis is a star ingredient in Bouillabaisse fish stew. If you do not have Pastis for your stew, many cooks substitute with Pernod.

How to enjoy Pastis?

Enjoy Pastis neat with a sidecar of very cold, ice water. Dilute the pastis to taste but never drink it neat as it is strong and may be bitter. Pastis makes the perfect aperitif to sip while people watching or enjoying a sunset.

What does Pastis mean?

The word “pastis” translates to “mash-up” in the South of France’s Occitan dialect.
Feeling like a getaway to the south of France? Even if you can’t go, you can get that same feeling by sipping a glass of Pastis outside in the sun. Pastis has a very unique flavor that can best be described as anise and licorice- like. For this reason, Pernod makes a suitable substitute in most applications and situations.