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Summer is surely the best time to celebrate freedom and independence. And the revolutionaries of yesteryear must have had some small inclination that the season is also best for parades, not to mention long weekends at the beach.
After our own Independence Day, the most renowned July fête is Bastille Day. Since 1790, the French people have remembered the toppling of the monarchy and the storming of Paris’ notorious prison on July 14 with regal festivities along the Champs-Élysées.
How can you join the fun? No matter if you choose to play a game of pétanque, study a Degas landscape or snack on a heavenly wheel of Camembert, consider enjoying one of these distinguished French spirits also. À votre santé!
1. Chartreuse ($65)
Made by Carthusian monks in the mountains outside of Grenoble for almost 300 years, Chartreuse’s strong, heady flavor is the result of a secret blend of 130 herbs and botanicals. Whether you pick Green (110 proof) or Yellow (80 proof), the elixir can be sipped with a single ice cube, a splash of water or in delicious cocktails like the Last Word.
2. Dubonnet Rouge ($15)
This slightly sweet aperitif, invented for the French Foreign Legion, is a refreshing afternoon tipple (perfect for a parade flask) served neat or over ice. Or feature it instead of sweet vermouth in a summery Manhattan. Flavored with herbs and spices, the aromatized wine also includes quinine, which was originally used to combat malaria.
3. Pineau des Charentes (Pierre Ferrand, $30)
Very popular in western France, this fortified wine is one of the most delightful pre-dinner beverages around. It’s a combination of grape must and eau-de-vie (unaged brandy) left over from making cognac. Look for Pierre Ferrand’s tasty bottling. Take a slightly chilled bottle with you on your next picnic.
4. Pernod ($40) & Ricard ($38)
These are two of the classic anise liqueurs created after France’s 1915 ban on absinthe. The timeless long drink is still the best method to consume them: Pour a generous shot of either one into a tall glass and fill three-quarters of the way with cold water. Finish with a couple sturdy ice cubes and sip slowly while you watch the sunset.