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The history of the famous Giffard Menthe Pastille began in the sweltering 1885 summer.
Émile Giffard worked as a dispensing pharmacist in Angers at the time (Val de Loire).
He had a curious and innovative mind and was also a gourmand. To test his white mint liqueur, he served it to the guests of the Grand Hotel as a cooling beverage during the heatwave. He was intrigued by mint's digestive and refreshing effects on his guest.
When Émile's liqueur became famous, he converted his pharmacy into a distillery and named it Menthe-Pastille, after a popular mint candy.
It is said that the President of France, Félix Faure, used to have a glass of Menthe-Pastille before taking his afternoon nap.
In 1891, Émile Giffard acquired the former monastery at Saint-Simeux (Val d'Oise) and established the Giffard Company there. The monks had been expelled from their abbey by the French Revolution. The building was in ruins when Émile acquired it, but he rebuilt it in neo-Romanesque style and furnished it with fine furniture and tapestries from Gobelins Manufactory. He then invited his family to live with him on-site and transformed the former monastery into a distillery.
The company started producing liqueurs, including a yellow one called "Médiane" and two green ones called "Menthe-Pastille" and "Petite-Fraise". The latter is still produced but with a different recipe than in the 19th century. It is now made with rhubarb instead of strawberries.
The Giffard company launched the first ready-to-drink Cocktail, Crême de Menthe, in 1890. The drink was sold in small bottles and was an immediate success. By 1910 Giffard's portfolio included a dozen different liqueurs and cordials.
Clean, pungent, peppermint oil and peppermint cream.
Clean with pronounced peppermint oil and alcohol perfectly balanced by the sugar. Refreshing and moreish.
Polo Mint clean menthol.
Genuinely refreshing! Great served on-the-rocks or frappé as an after-dinner digestive, or long with ice in a Collins glass topped with tonic water on a summer's afternoon (same proportions as a generous double G&T).
Giffard Menthe Pastille Ingredients
The ingredients for Menthe-Pastille are carefully chosen from among many different types of mint, and other herbs, then blended and ground into a fine powder.
Mitcham Peppermint is a cross between Mentha Spicata or Viridis (Spear Mint), which has a very soft flavour, and Mentha Aquatica (Water Mint), a wild mint with a potent and spicy taste. Mitcham Plant Mint is part of a sub-variety known as Mentha Piperita. Its leaves contain high levels of menthol, which causes the sensation of freshness.
Mentha piperita is a species of mint native to most of Europe and parts of Asia. However, it is widely naturalized in other areas. Its flavour is similar to peppermint but slightly milder, and it has a higher menthol content. It will grow to 0.5 m (1 ft 8 in) tall with opposite leaves 1–2 cm (0.39–0.79 in) long and 4 mm (0.16 in) broad, with an acute apex and coarsely toothed margins; the leaves are green with reddish veins on the underside, hairy on both surfaces with dense short hairs on the upper side of the leaf stems but not on veins or margins; as it matures it develops into a red-coloured inflorescence up to 7 cm ( 2.8 in) long, with a hairy calyx that is divided into two lanceolate lobes with a few teeth and five triangular lobes.
It has been in cultivation since at least the 15th century and was grown as an ornamental plant because of its showy flowers. Mentha piperita spread throughout Europe and was introduced to North America in the 17th century. The plant is now naturalized across much of North America, including most of Canada and parts of the northern United States.
The species name Piperita derives from Latin for 'pepper', referring to the spicy nature of this mint. Mentha piperita has a strong flavour which many people find too strong for use as a culinary herb, but it can be used in teas, syrups, candies or ice cream for flavouring purposes; it is also used as a medicinal herb, particularly for digestive problems such as nausea or indigestion.
Samuel Treadway of Boston, USA, used Giffard Menthe Pastille in his final Cocktail submission in 2019.
The candidates had to endure two rounds over the course of two days. In the first task, 'Less is more,' the bartenders were asked to prepare a short drink using only two essential ingredients: Giffard liqueurs.
The goal of the second task, titled "Born to refresh," was to use Giffard's signature liqueur to make a long refreshing drink as a homage to the narrative of Menthe-Pastille.
An international jury comprised of Simon Difford, the creator of the Difford's Guide; Yana Volfson, beverage director for Cosme and Atla in New York; David Hans, winner of the Giffard West Cup in 2017; Jen Riley, owner of Red House and Sister Midnight in Paris; and Bruno and Edith Giffard selected the winner following the two-day competition.
Samuel's B2 and Sailor's Apothecary cocktails (recipes below) wowed the judges, and he was voted the competition champion.
Second place went to Matteo Mosetti of Birmingham's Nocturnal Animals, followed by Sebastian Bauer of Nürnberg's Gelbes Haus, who came in third.
30 ml Liqueur Giffard Banane du Brésil
60 ml Avuà Prata Cachaça
1 barspoon Lime juice
1 barspoon Angostura bitters
60ml Clément Select Barrel
20ml Liqueur Giffard Banane du Brésil
20ml Lime juice
10ml Giffard Sirop Orgeat
1 dash Angostura bitter
Pinch of sea salt
40ml Soda water
Émile Giffard was an innovative businessman who was the first to use glass bottles liqueurs. He also invented the automatic machine that made bottles out of glass blanks in one go. He sold his machine to other brands, and it was used by many famous French liqueur producers, such as Chartreuse or Marius Jacquinot (famous for his Crème de Cassis).
Émile Giffard died in 1899 at the age of 75. His sons Gaston and Lucien took over the company. In 1911, they bought a second distillery in the nearby town of Marcq-en-Barœul, which was demolished in 2010 to make way for new residential development.
The Giffard family owned their vineyards, supplying grapes for their liqueurs. They also produced wines under "Champagne de la Commanderie".
Gaston Giffard died in 1917 at the age of 49, and his brother Lucien took over the business. However, he didn't have children, so he left it to his nephews Henri (son of Gaston) and André (son of Lucien). They ran it together until Henri died without leaving any heirs in 1955. André thus became the sole owner and leader of the company. He was a dynamic entrepreneur who modernized Giffard by investing heavily in new technologies such as54 from typhoid fever, which he caught while travelling to Algeria.
His wife Marie took over and hired a team of craftsmen to produce liqueurs. The Company was officially registered on August 12th 1897 as Société anonyme des Eaux de Vies et Liqueurs de France (SAEVLF).
The company is also known for its Classic Crème de Cacao, still sold today. It has been produced using the same recipe since 1875 and is distilled from cacao beans and vanilla pods from Madagascar. The drink is made using a traditional copper pot still, giving it a distinctive flavour compared to other brands of crème de cacao brands. Giffard also produces Classic Liqueur Crème de Banane (1890) and Crème d'Ananas (1913).
Giffard also produces Grand Marnier Cordial, which Henri Louis Grand Marnier created in 1880 as an alternative to Cognac or brandy in mixed drinks. The company's cordials are sold in more than 100 countries.
Giffard purchased Bigallet, a liqueur company that had been in business since 1872, in April 2010.
In 2014 Giffard launched a new range of liqueurs and cordials called "Les Secrets de Giffard". The range includes three liqueurs made from plants and spices grown on the island of Madagascar, which is known for its vanilla production. The range includes "Mélisse", a liqueur made from the Melisse flower, "Vanille", a vanilla liqueur, and "Anis de Madagascar", an anise-flavoured liqueur.
In 2015 Giffard launched a range of limited-edition crème de menthe liqueurs with illustrations by artist David Shrigley. The five designs include "Babies", "Cats", "Ghosts", "Penguins", and "Robots".
The company's headquarters is located in the 16th arrondissement of Paris and has been registered as a historical monument since 1995. It was built in 1912 by architect Paul Bigot and was renovated in 2007 to preserve its original features, including a large stained glass window depicting an angel blowing bubbles.
It is used as a venue for cocktail competitions, including the annual "Mondial du Cocktail", the world's largest cocktail competition.
To celebrate its 150th anniversary, Giffard launched a limited edition bottle in 2015. The bottle is designed by David Shrigley, an artist known for his humorous illustrations of everyday objects. The bottle is made from glass and features an illustration of a penguin with the company's logo on its stomach.
In 2017, Giffard was awarded the title of "World's Best Liqueur Brand" at the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC). Giffard was also awarded gold medals for its "Bouquet des Îles" liqueurs and its "Les Secrets de Giffard" liqueurs.
In 2022, the brand was also awarded fifth best trending liqueur in the world and third best selling liqueur in the world by DRINKS International.
The company also employed the services of a noted French novelist, Georges Simenon, who wrote a series of short stories about the firm's 'Monsieur Pastille' character.
Menthe-pastille also employed the services of several notable French actresses and singers, including the great Mistinguett, who appeared in several Menthe-Pastille's early postcards.
In 1935, Menthe-Pastille was the first company to introduce pastilles in a tube. Raymond Loewy designed the new packaging. The stories first appeared in the 1930s in a French literary magazine and were published as a book in 1954.
Menthe-Pastille is mentioned in the novel "The Egoists" by George Meredith, where it is described as 'an excellent tooth powder'.
The Menthe-Pastille logo is also featured in the novels "The Lost Stradivarius" by Ellis Peters and "Jamaica Inn" by Daphne du Maurier.
Menthe-Pastille was also mentioned in the novel "Scoop" by Evelyn Waugh.
Menthe-Pastille is also mentioned in the novel "The Lost Stradivarius" by Eric Ambler.
Menthe-Pastille is mentioned in the song 'I'm a Believer by The Monkees, in which the singer mentions it as one of the things he has 'just begun to like'.
Menthe-Pastille is mentioned in the Outsiders' song 'I'm On The Outside (Looking In)', who sings about how the product makes their teeth' feeling fine'.
The Lost Trailers mention Menthe-Pastille in the song 'Just a Bit South of North Carolina', who sing about how their teeth are 'just a bit south of Menthe-Pastille'.
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