Saturday, June 10, 2006

Alcohol in Rural France

French drinking habits and tastes are very different to thos of the English (and probably the Americans too)

First there are differences in the amount they drink and the times they drink. This I know because I live opposite a cafe/bar/tabac and I can see all the comings and goings. Often its me that's doing the coming and going. (Purely for research reasons you understand)

The French drink all day. The farmers will come into the cafe at 9:30 in the morning, have a drink (a wine or a kir) and then straight back into the fields. Then they'll be back at 11:30 for a pre-lunch aperatif. Back again at 5:30 for a pre dinner aperatif, and if they're feeling sociable they'll be back at 7:30 for a few more.
But here's the difference between them and the English - they very rarely get drunk. They drink a little, often. The English on the other hand will hit the pub straight after work, and down 4 or 5 pints, get 2 more in at the shout of last orders and stagger out of the pub at 11:00.

Then there are the differences in what they drink. Here in France, most commonly drunk is red wine. The vin ordinaire can sometimes be VERY ordinaire, but often its not too bad. At 60 centimes a glass (that's 75 US cents or 41p) its not too bad at all. If the wine's a bit rough then it will be tempered with lemonade. On a hot day Kir is very popular (white wine and cassis). Beer from the bottle - the usual Kronenbourg and other bland lagers, or from the pump. Half a litre glass of beer here is 1:60 ($2.02, £1.10). It's not uncommon to add menthe or fraise or an orange liqueur called Picon.
Never forget all the varieties of Pastis - an aniseed flavour drink that is clear until water is added, and then it turns cloudy. There are many brands (Ricard, Pastis 51) and they vary in their range of colour along a white/yellow spectrum.
There is a particularly nasty aperitif made from the plant Gentian. One of the brands is called "Suze". It is as bitter as all hell and makes your lips stick to your teeth. It is drunk with cassis or menthe and I have tried it a few times, but it just won't come right.
Here in the Charente there is a fortified wine called Pineau which is very pleasant when chilled. All the locals make their own brews and it is always excellent to have a well made home brewed Pineau. Surprisingly, cognac is rarely drunk at the cafe. probably too expensive.

The French here have NO idea about whisky. At our cafe they sell "Paddys". Primo - it's Irish whisky, not scotch and segundo its crap. But they think that's what whisky is supposed to taste like. Not surprisingly they mix it with orange cordial and call it a "Bibi". Best thing for it short of pouring down the sink.


At 12:41 pm, Blogger MichaelBains said...

Dude! Whiskey (Jack Daniels, sour mash) is all I generally drink.

Not a lot, though. A litre at home will generally last me about 3 or 4 months.

At 7:05 pm, Blogger beethoven writes said...

enjoyed this article. from your comment, the food and drink sounds bloody good out there.


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