Thursday, June 25, 2009

Success du Panache

Nearly twenty years ago while spending a couple weeks in Provence I was introduced to a drink I fell in love with: the panache (pronounced pan-uh-SHAY—there should be an accent mark over the e—pronounced correctly, the first and last words of the title of this piece should rhyme). I was told it was a mix of lemonade and beer, and after a day of hiking around the warm, dry countryside (always concluding with a final uphill to the town where we were staying), a glass or two of this was more refreshing and flavorful than anything I would have imagined on my own.

When I returned home, I set about recreating this concoction on my own, and met failure after failure. Clearly what the French called lemonade was different than anything I could find in the Midwest. I even tried mixing lemonade, mineral water, and beer, but to no avail. The funny thing is whenever I told friends what the drink was made of they all did some version of wrinkling or turning up their noses—lemonade mixed with beer didn’t sound appealing to anyone.

As time passed, I almost began to doubt my memory. It seemed like something I had made up or dreamt, and eventually I even forgot about it. When I returned to France for the first time a couple years ago, it never even occurred to me to try to track down a panache. Coffee ├ęclairs, bread, cheese, and wine—yes! Panaches—never crossed my mind. Of course, I was in Paris and Bretagne, places that with their relatively cool climates might not have as much cause to cultivate panache drinkers.

This year’s trip, which started out with Paris and Bretagne, passed without incident, but one of the first restaurants we went to once we headed south listed panache on their drinks menu. I knew I needed to ditch the high school students we were traveling with, and find a little time alone to see if I still found this drink satisfying almost two decades since I last tasted it.

I only had to wait a couple of short, hot hours—the perfect preparation for such an event. It proved to be nothing less than glorious. The rest of our time on the Cote d’Azur, I looked for opportunities to savor a panache at the end of a hot day of walking and sightseeing.

At some point, while enjoying one of my drinks and mourning that I would soon be leaving them behind, it dawned on me that I lived in the age of the internet. Surely, I could find a recipe, so I could recreate this drink in the comfort of my own home. And I did. Though, it is more commonly known as a shandy, some version of this drink is enjoyed in a number of countries around the world.

While that seemed affirming in and of itself, I felt like I hit the jackpot when I found a discussion thread on the topic, which included the telling detail—Trader Joe’s carries a French lemonade and a lager is the ideal beer with which to blend it. I promptly went out to the suburbs and bought multiple bottles of their limonade, and raced home to try it out—a 100% success. I no longer have to cross an ocean for this pleasure.

Bonus Happiness Point: Trader Joe’s is opening a store near my home, so I no longer have to make a trip out to the suburbs to load up on supplies.

1 comment:

Andy Soth said...

When I was traveling as a 17 year-old in Bavaria, I asked for Ein Cola, Bitte, which my server took to mean a cola beer. I drank the beer mixed with Coke, but I have not spent the remaining decades wanting to capture this taste again.