Thursday Night Loaded: Pernod Saves The Day

I work from home and my wife is on maternity leave. It means our whole family spends a lot of time kicking around the house. It’s really nice. But it means a lot of little trivialities are starting to fall by the wayside. Like what day of the week it is or what the weather’s like.

I only know it’s really, really cold.

Beyond that, I have to admit I’m kind of foggy on the details. With that in mind….

The Foggy Day
1 1/2 oz gin
1/4 oz Pernod
lemon
Shake gin and Pernod well with ice. Strain over ice into a pre-chilled old-fashioned glass. Rub the lemon around the outside of the glass. Drop lemon slice into glass.

(How’s that for a cocktail segue? You wouldn’t know that I almost forgot it was Thursday night and that I’m just pulling this column out of my ass.)

According to Thomas Mario, the Foggy Day was created by Jerry Wyman, head bartender at the Phoenix Playboy Club at some point in the 70s. It’s an interesting cocktail but certainly not one for the faint of heart. Neither of its main constituents are what you would consider simple pleasures.

The gin you all know. But Pernod, I find, is not something everyone has in their liquor cabinet. And that’s too bad. It is a key ingredient in some of my favourite cocktails (such as the Corpse Reviver #2). For those who’ve never tried it, it’s an anise-flavoured liqueur produced by Pernod Ricard in France and owes its existence to the Great Absinthe Scare of the early 20th century.

You might recall that nasty global temperance movement that led to things like Prohibition. Well, a byproduct of all that anti-booze alarm was a heightened concern about absinthe’s wormwood content — that herb being a powerfully toxic, psychoactive substance if taken straight. As a result, by 1915, much of Europe put an absinthe ban in place. France even got caught up in the panic despite the fact that the liqueur was at the time considered their national drink. (Although, to be fair,  the French were downing 38 million litres of the stuff annually by 1910 so maybe a few decades of absinthe abstinence wasn’t such a bad idea.)

At this point, many absinthes simply disappeared from the market. But Ricard, the company behind Pernod Fils, one of the most popular brands, chose to adapt by producing an absinthe-like beverage that dropped the wormwood and compensated with other botanicals.

And that’s where the Pernod you can buy in the liquor store today comes from. You might think of it as absinthe-lite but really it has evolved into a worthy liqueur in its own right that has some similarities to licorice-flavoured drinks like ouzo.

Some words of mixological warning: Pernod can be a cocktail killer. It is a remarkably potent spirit and adding even a drop or two more than a recipe calls for can lead to disaster. In fact, I tend to be incredibly conservative with it and even in something like the Foggy Day, where only a quarter ounce is called for, I’ll typically use a little less than written. When you get the proportion right, though, Pernod adds an entire world of complexity to whatever glass it touches.

For instance, the first time I got the Foggy Day just right, I was rendered speechless by the rush of flavours (and, no doubt, the blast of liquor as well). When the gin and Pernod are balanced, you have a slick and sophisticated cocktail. However, a single Pernod atom too much (that’s Pd, atomic number of 46) and the gin disappears. Poof! You may as well have saved yourself the bother and just poured the liqueur straight into your glass.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5'10'' tall and he was born in a place. He's not there now. He's sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It's "Girl From Ipanema", thanks for asking. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.