The drink is a local speciality: created in Anger in the summer of 1885 and which turned local pharmacist Emile Giffard into a liquourist and founder of the Giffard company which is still going strong today.
“It all began in the summer of 1885 in Anger: Emile Giffard, my great-great-grandfather, was a pharmacist in the city center and was studying the digestive virtues of mint, and specifically a variety of peppermint called Mitcham mint,” explains Emilie Giffard, who now works for the company.
“There was a big heatwave, and the owner of the nearby hotel asked him for something refreshing for his clients. Emile thought it was a perfect opportunity to make people try what he was working on – crystal clear refreshing drinks from the distillation of the Mitcham mint – and the success was immediate.”
But, naturally, the story doesn’t start and end there. One of the biggest changes for the brand was 10 years ago: when Emilie’s father and aunt decided to find an alternative to importing mint from the US and south of France by starting to grow it in the region around the factory.
This move made a certain amount of sense – the Chemillé region of France is well-known for botanicals – but very little sense in other aspects. The company had to work out how to grow the mint with much less certainty over production, and it’s taken time to learn how to cultivate the plant properly. Neither was the decision made on the basis of supply chain concerns or costs - rather the decision was made simply from a desire to bring the ingredients close to the distillery and drink.
“We have this idea that mint grows everywhere and yes, it’s easy. But this Mitcham mint is different,” said Edith Giffard. “But we wanted to do it, we’re a local, family business: and we want to know about the mint, and how it grows. This is the family spirit. In the same way my great-grandfather made a bet to start his company, we did the same with mint.”
The first harvest was in 2013 and now the company is able to grow all its mint in the region. Harvest takes place in July and is a tricky business: it must be harvested in a dry spell and then quickly distilled into the essential oil for the liqueur.
Now, the company sees the opportunity to grow the drink further outside its home in the west of France.
“We mostly drink it in France at the moment, in the west part where it is a much-loved product, but we see more and more bartenders around the world falling in love with the product,” said Emilie.
“There are a few ways to enjoy: traditionally on the rocks as a digestive, also straight from the freezer if you want really fresh. You can also have it as an aperitif in summertime, where you add tonic or soda water.”
But what could help transform the drink’s popularity is its use in trendy cocktails, thanks to its smooth and refreshing flavor and drinking experience.
In the company’s upcoming West Cup cocktail competition, national winners will be challenged to create a drink incorporating Menthe-Pastille in their drink in the Grand Final: helping build awareness of the drink and its potential in the trending cocktail scene.