Despite having a name that literally translates to tomato, the Tomate cocktail’s only relationship to the juicy red fruit is its vibrant red color.
It’s true. The Tomate has absolutely no ties to tomato juice-based cocktails like America’s Bloody Mary or Canada’s Caesar. Instead, the France’s Tomate is a popular pastis cocktail typically imbibed in the French Riviera and throughout the country.
What is a Tomate Cocktail?
If you see somebody drinking a bright red cocktail in Marseille or along France’s southern coast, it’s probably a Tomate cocktail made with Pastis de Marseille and Grenadine. Local bars serve the quirky drink all day long and into the night.
Don’t underestimate the Tomate cocktail. It’s a drink to sip and not gulp despite its fun color and fruity flavor. This potent potable packs a punch thank to its main ingredient – pastis, a liquor with a minimum 45% ABV.
French mixologists started using pastis instead of absinthe in the early 20th century due to fears that thujone in absinthe caused drinkers to experience bouts of madness. Although absinthe producers have since reduced the use of the chemical thujone found in wormwood, pastis remains popular in France and beyond.
Tomate Cocktail Ingredients
If you count the Tomate cocktail’s ingredient list on one hand, you’ll have too many fingers. The compact list has just the following four items:
- Cold water
Even if you add garnish like a rosemary sprig or fennel fronds, the ingredient list stays succinct. Unlike the above ingredients, garnish is completely optional.
With so few ingredients, it’s important to use high-quality products. In our Tomate recipe, we use Ricard Pastis de Marseille and Monin Grenadine that we buy at local liquor stores in Lisbon. Accordingly, our drink is technically a Ricard Tomate.
Now produced by Pernod-Ricard, Ricard Pastis de Marseille has been a popular alternative to absinthe since 1932. Ingredients like star anise, licorice and Provençal herbs give this French liqueur its distinctively herbaceous flavor.
We like to use Monin Grenadine in our Tomate recipe since Monin uses natural ingredients like pomegranate, cane sugar and orange flower water while eschewing corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. If you can’t find Monin Grenadine at your local liquor shop, you can easily buy a bottle on Amazon.
Although the French word grenade translates to pomegranate, many commercial grenadine producers don’t include pomegranate juice in their syrups. As an example, Rose’s Grenadine includes high fructose corn syrup and red dye instead of pomegranates to create its popular grenadine syrup.
Making Tomate Cocktails at Home
You don’t need fancy equipment to craft a Tomate cocktail at home. In fact, the list of necessary bar equipment is even shorter than the drink’s ingredient list. Our Tomate cocktail recipe just requires a glass, a jigger and a bar spoon.
We recommend that you follow our recipe closely your first time. We came up with the 2 to 1 ratio of pastis to grenadine after following a few disappointing Tomate recipes that were either too sweet or not sweet enough.
You’ll then be ready to modify our Tomate cocktail recipe to your personal taste. Experiment by adjusting the ratio of grenadine to pastis as well as the amount of water you add. You can also get creative with garnishes like mint, rosemary and fennel fronds depending on what you have in your pantry.
Budget two minutes to make each Tomate cocktail. We recommend drinking this pastis drink with nuts, olives or other tasty tidbits you have in your pantry.
We also recommend watching the sun set between sips. This approach is the next best thing to drinking a Tomate in Marseille but without the need to get on a plane or translate a menu.
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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.