Wander through nearly any city in France, and you’ll see crowds gathering at cafes during the afternoon hours for cocktails and conversation. It’s the kind of ritual you’ll want to join. And if you find yourself in the southeastern part of the country, particularly in or around Marseille, those drinks are likely to contain pastis.
Pastis is an anise-flavored liqueur made by macerating aniseed or star anise with licorice root and herbs. This mixture is combined with a neutral base spirit and typically bottled at 40% to 45% ABV. In France, the two big names in pastis are Pernod and Ricard, which are today owned by the merged mega-conglomerate Pernod Ricard.
The common way to drink pastis is by mixing it with cold water, which results in a cloudy mixture that is given the nickname Milk of Marseille. The Momisette cocktail takes things one step further by adding orgeat, the sweet and creamy syrup that is essential in Tiki classics like the Mai Tai, and by using sparkling water instead of still water.
Momisette is French for “tiny mummy,” which is difficult to explain but a fun fact you can share while mixing up a round for your friends. The simple combination of pastis, orgeat and bubbly water yields a refreshing drink with a silky smooth flavor and texture.
Most orgeats are made by combining almonds with sugar, water and a fortifying spirit like brandy, plus a dash of orange flower water. However, modern recipes sometimes call for different nuts, including pistachios and hazelnuts. Commercial orgeat will most likely feature almonds, but if you’re making it at home, you can use your preferred nut, knowing that almond-based orgeat will make the most traditional Momisette cocktail.
Pastis hit the market in 1932 during the period when absinthe was banned, and while the two drinks are made differently and feature some different ingredients, they are similar in taste. Pastis is a solid substitute in cocktails like the Sazerac, which calls for a small measure of absinthe. So, if you buy a bottle of pastis, you can find several uses for it beyond the Momisette.
1 ounce pastis
1/4 ounce orgeat
Sparkling water, chilled, to top
Add the pastis and orgeat into a Collins glass with ice.
Top with sparkling water and stir briefly and gently to combine.
Serve with a straw, if desired.