This week, ahead of Bastille Day on July 14, we’re flying the French flag with the Essential Guide to French Aperitifs, Mistelles, Liqueurs & Eaux de Vie.
The French may be well known for their winemaking and champagne but they also have an abundance of and a long standing history of spirits, liqueurs, eaux de vie and regional mistelles.
Ahead of Bastille Day, we’ve put together a primer on French spirits, a comprehensive A to Z of popular and some of the lesser known French spirits including mistelles and eaux de vie.
But first, let’s take a look at some basic definitions:
An aperitif is an alcoholic beverage served before a meal that serves to open the appetite. The word comes from aperire, which means “to open”. L’apéro is a short name for l’aperitif, a pre-dinner drink often enjoyed with nibbles.
A digestif is enjoyed at the end of the meal, often with the purpose of assisting in digestion. Digestifs include fruit-based eaux de vie, Cognac, Armagnac and various liqueurs.
Eau de Vie means literally “water of life”, a transparent and colourless fruit distillate (other than grapes) that is often unaged. Eau de Vie is also a generic term used to describe a distilled spirit.
Marc is a clear spirit produced by distilling the residue (skin, stems, pips) that are left after pressing the grapes during wine making.
Mistelle is the name given to a drink that is the result of adding alcohol to unfermented or partially fermented fruit juice (usually grapes) for the purpose of stopping the fermentation process. This results in giving the mistelle a sweeter flavour than a fully fermented drink in which the sugars would have been converted to alcohol. Mistelles are known to have their own AOC, or Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée.
Click to the next page for the Essential Guide to French Aperitifs, Mistelles, Liqueurs & Eaux de Vie (A-L)