In certain parts of Europe you’ll be offered a digestif automatically at the end of the meal. In the French alps, at the end of the meal, strong Genepi will be plunked onto the table. If you find yourself in southern Italy or Sicily, it’ll be Limoncello (hopefully homemade), and in Corsica, you’ll be offered a choice of Myrtle liqueur or Chestnut liqueur. Watch out though- digestifs are often quite strong and if the men around the table have had enough to drink, the digestif degustation, or tasting of all the available digestifs you have in your cupboard, may become a contest. I briefly worked in one restaurant that would leave the bottle on the table and allow you to drink as much as you like!
Brandy, fortified wine and liqueurs are all popular digestifs in France. In Provence, you generally won’t be automatically offered a digestif except if you’re in the mountains. I suppose our food is lighter here so you don’t need as much help burning a hole in that solidified fondu in your stomach. However, there are some specialities from Provence that you can ask for to keep you warm on your walk home.
Digestifs to Order in Provence
This is a liqueur made with Provençal wild thyme, which has a different flavour to cultivated thyme. It couldn’t get any more Provençal than this but I have to say it’s an acquired taste!
Muscat from Beaumes de Venise
Famously delicious, sweet wine from the Beaumes de Venise area. We often have this with our dessert. You can also order a Muscat for an apéritif and it’ll often be the suggested with if you’re having foie gras as a starter. Another sweet wine from Provence is Vin Cuit, or cooked wine, that is served during the December holidays.
Marc de Provence : Eau de Vie
This used to be made by most farmers. It’s an eau de vie (water of life = distilled spirit made from fruit) that is usually made with the dried pressed grapes leftover from winemaking. Shepherds used to splash it on rocks and put salt on them for sheep to lick… It apparently makes them eat more. This is strong stuff! Many vineyards still make their own Marc de Provence or Eau de Vie. A local favourite is Griotte cherries soaked in eau de vie.
Liqueur made from bitter almonds. You can put a little of this in your champagne at the beginning of the meal for a Provençal Kir-Royale. It’s also used in cooking sweets such as crêpes and ice cream.
Apéritifs/Digestifs from other parts of France
You’ll find a large selection of these drinks in grocery stores. Many are regional drinks that are unknown outside of their region. I feel like I’m including these mainly for the fantastic advertising…
BYRRH (SouthWest France)
Pineau de Charentes (from Bordeaux and Dordogne area)
Created in1830, this is an apéritif made from Quinquina and wine.
Perhaps one of the most famous because of the charming advertisements (is that an odd word combination?) often still leftover from another era on the sides of buildings. This company claims to have “the Apéritif de France.”
And so so much more! Do you have a favourite digestif? Extra points if it’s from Provence!
Prefer getting tipsy at the beginning of the meal? Check out Aperitifs to Order in Provence.