It all began in Marseille in the 1930s, when cafes sold any number of anise-based liqueurs, most of them illicit and too sweet for consumers' tastes. In Sainte-Marthe, Paul Ricard, a wine-merchant's son, dreamt of finding a formula "that would meet everyoneâs tastes". In his improvised laboratory he would macerate Provencal plants, fennel seeds, aniseed essence and more.
One day in 1932, he finally had his recipe, declaring, "It shall be called Ricard, the real pastis from Marseille!" At the age of only 23, Paul Ricard had just invented the first French long drink: one volume of pastis with five volumes of water, served with ice. "I am willing to put my name on it," he proclaimed, "because I am sure of the quality of this pastis and proud of its unique taste".
The young man had studied fine arts and so designed his drink's first poster and label. Ricard pastis was an immediate hit. By 1938, sales already stood at 2.4 million litres. In 1984 the by now world-famous brand celebrated its billionth bottle.