A visit to Marseille would be incomplete without enjoying one or ten Mauresque cocktails. This is a city where locals and travelers drink the Provençal favorite while soaking in the sun at outdoor cafes from dawn to dusk.
We were no exception when we first visited the French port in 2016. We fell hard for the pastis cocktail while eating dinner with Marseille locals. How could we resist the tasty tipple that often cost us less than a chilled glass of Perrier?
As we later discovered, making a Mauresque at home is ridiculously effortless. In fact, the Mauresque cocktail is one of the world’s easiest cocktails, rivaling the eponymous G+T in its simplicity to craft.
But don’t let this pastis drink fool you based on its painless preparation. Not only does the Mauresque have a fascinating history, but the refreshing aperitif also possesses unique, transportive flavors of star anise and almond in every sweet sip.
What is a Mauresque Cocktail?
We weren’t the first travelers to succumb to the deceptively innocent Mauresque and we won’t be the last. Invented by the French and named after the Moors, the global cocktail’s history dates back to the 19th century.
One legend asserts that French soldiers, who imbibed absinthe to prevent malaria, originally crafted the cocktail with absinthe while serving in Africa. Another links the colorful name to white Moorish clothing since a mixed Mauresque is milky white.
After flowing freely during the Belle Epoque, absinthe was illegal to drink in France from 1915 to 2000 due to fears that it caused madness. Though those fears have abated, the green elixir’s modern iteration has a reduced level of thujone. Adventurous drinkers can order absinthe cocktails at bars in cities like Paris and San Francisco.
Unlike the Maursque’s origin story, there’s no debate that the drink is wildly popular in the Côte d’Azur where bartenders have replaced absinthe with pastis, the national drink of France. The best bartenders use Pastis de Marseille.
Pastis de Marseille
Marseille’s pastis liqueur is intoxicating to those who adore anisette. With a minimum ABV of 45%, it’s also intoxicating to anyone who drinks the liquor to excess. As always, we recommend moderation.
Similar to ouzo in Greece and sambuca in Italy, Pastis de Marseille’s main ingredient is star anise. Licorice root and a mix of Provencal herbs add extra flavor. Unlike absinthe, green anise and wormwood are not in the mix.
You can buy bottles of Pastis de Marseille at tourist shops in Marseille’s Old Port while strolling along the azure Mediterranean Sea. Drink them in your hotel room or save them as edible souvenirs.
Mauresque Cocktail Ingredients
Ricard has been producing Pastis de Marseille in France since 1932 when Paul Ricard created the liqueur as a substitute for absinthe. Now produced by Pernod-Ricard, this French pastis has a complex flavor thanks to Asian star anise and licorice as well as locally sourced Provençal herbs. After maceration and distillation, the resulting Ricard alcohol is both earthy and smooth.
Also produced in France, Monin Orgeat is a premium sirop infused with almonds and sugar. The sweet, nutty flavor of the opaque white syrup provides a pleasing counterbalance to the pastis’ herbaceousness.
Drinking Mauresque Cocktails at Home
The Mauresque cocktail is one of the easiest cocktails to make at home. However, don’t underestimate the drink’s complex flavor and alcoholic impact.
Be sure to add a healthy amount of water and a handful of ice to your home-made Mauresque cocktails. Water dilutes the alcohol level and creates a larger drink that’s sippable on a balcony, porch or other outdoor space.
We recommend that you drink this pastis aperitif as if you’re in Marseille. Make it at the end of the day and enjoy it while you watch the sun set. Nibbles like salty olives and crunchy nuts complete the Mediterranean experience.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.