A LITTLE HISTORY
Alcohol is the oldest companion of Man.
The first bacchante who has been discovered is the ”Venus of Laussel”, carved at the entrance of a cave in southwest of France, 30 000 years ago, close to the future Cognac ! Of a triumphant hand she brandishes a horn which she is about to empty…
Prehistoric Man probably discovered alcohol in a rock hollow in which herbs, seeds, fruits, and rainwater fermented, to give a kind of beer or cider. And he realized that this rotten water was having a different taste day after day. He discovered distillation.
Honey gives the mead, the sap of birch gives the first wine. In the first Egyptians stills, al-khol (fard) and perfumes were prepared.
The eau-de-vie from distillation is undrinkable. We must either add the wine to give aperitifs or by adding to this wine, herbs and spices which will then give quinquina, vermouth and absinthe, or even without adding wine, but by adding plants maceration which will give bitters, gentians and anise-base spirits.
Most spirits were either born in the abbeys around where the monks planted vines and aromatic plants, or in harbors where all foods, fruits, wines, spoiled grains or not gathered, but where it was possible to get, on the same platforms, spices and herbs (Cognac, Bordeaux, Marseille).
The main competitor of alcohol was the wine, but it has a great commercial value for very small volume.
The Dutch were the first to acknowledge it and they even settled a keg on each of their vessels from 1680. Sailors liked it and were asking for more during each stops, especially since it also became a drug and the first anesthetic for surgeons.
In 1809 the ”cocktail” appears, in which were mixed obscure alcohol, which, bottling will give famous alcohols brands, like one of the first in the 18th century called: the ”diamant” (40 % rum, 40% gin, 20 % anisette).
And the ancestors of French bistros, where did they come from?
The ”maisons rouges” of the state employees of the time of the romans and the gauls, the relays for pilgrims and hawkers in the Middle Ages, the halts at the top of the ratings for the coatchmen, the shelter of the boatman in front of ford, the relays of diligences, the railway terminus, the coffee port…
Bistros, the famous French cafés in the first half of the twentieth century, were everywhere!!
They hemmed the squares of towns and villages, they congregated around stations and along boulevards.
The old famous bottles that you can find on this website were called: Picon, Suze, Byrrh, St. Raphaël, Pernod, Clacquesin, Bonal, Cinzano, Dubonnet, Lillet, Ambassadeur, Cap Corse, Noilly-Prat, Salambo, Mandarin…
From the 60s – appearance of the screwed capsule replacing the cork –the majority of the bistros closed down. Large buildings and housing estates were the first French constructions based neither on a cellar nor on a bistro counter!!
TV and computer, as well as roadsides gendarmes have diverted French people of bistros. But also the rural exodus, the disappearance of the working class, the new planning regulations, taxation, and the banning of cigarettes, fast food, and strolls in supermarkets !
The 500 000 bistros that used to be in the early twentieth century became barely 30 000 today. More than 1 000 of them are disappearing every year.
The last ones will probably turned into museums!