The tiny town of Arles in the South of France, known for Roman ruins and Van Gogh, is a place where time stands still, but thyme is ever-growing. The fragrant herb, known in the region as Farigoule, is an important part of Provençal cuisine. Indeed, it is the primary ingredient in the spice blend for Herbes de Provence, and is used for seasoning meat as well as for a variety of sweet and savory recipes. Known for both its aromatic and medicinal properties, thyme is also used as the main ingredient in a specific kind of Provençal digestif that can be found only in Arles and the surrounding region. This drink, sold as Farigoule in Provence, is strong, complex, and sweet, with a greenish-gold color and a syrupy texture. (Bigallet, based in the French Alps, makes a similar Thym Liqueur as well.) Farigoule liqueur is deceptively potent, between 70 and 80 proof, and is an excellent base for cocktails. It’s also the perfect flavor to transition you from summer into fall, with a sweetness and freshness reminiscent of the last days of warm weather, and an herbal depth that whispers of fireside chats and fragrant holiday roasts.
It was so difficult to find in the US that in order to make these drink suggestions, I had to substitute a particularly strong batch of thyme simple syrup for the real thing. But since we’re using it here mostly as a flavoring agent, you can feel free to follow our lead if unable to find proper thyme liqueur.
Thyme Simple Syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
0.5 cup thyme sprigs
Combine sugar, water, and thyme in a saucepan and heat over medium, stirring until sugar dissolves completely. Do not allow it to boil, as the sugar will burn. Allow to cool to room temperature, then strain out the thyme leaves and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
1 oz gin
0.5 oz thyme liqueur
0.5 oz campari
1 oz dry vermouth
If there were an ideological antithesis to a Lime-A-Rita, it would be the Negroni. It’s the drink ordered by the friend you’re least willing to mess with, a cocktail for people who drink cocktails and know the proper way to store Martini Rosso. This take on a classic Negroni flies in the face of tradition by using dry vermouth instead of sweet, and adding a hint of thyme. Stir the ingredients in a rocks glass over ice, and serve with a sprig of thyme as garnish.
Pair with: French ham and pear crostini with truffle honey, or a charcuterie plate with strong cheeses like aged parmesan or blue cheese (don’t forget the olives!).
1 oz gin or vodka
1 oz thyme liqueur
3 Oz grapefruit juice
Spritz of lime juice
A Greyhound is one of the simplest cocktails you can make, a mixture of grapefruit juice and either vodka or gin. Give it an extra kick of thyme in this adaptation. Add the ingredients in a Collins glass over ice and finish with a squeeze of lime. You can also add a salt rim to make it a Provençal Salty Dog.
Pair with: A goat cheese salad or sole meunière.
Thyme Kir Royale
0.5 oz thyme liqueur
Chilled champagne, prosecco, or cava
Kir typically refers to cassis syrup mixed with white wine, a common drink in France. A Kir Royale is cassis and champagne, but this twist substitutes thyme for cassis. Just add the thyme liqueur to a champagne flute, then fill the glass to the top with the sparkling wine of your choice.
Pair with: Fresh fruit, like strawberries, raspberries, or peaches. Or a light lemon sorbet.
2 oz bourbon
2 oz thyme liqueur
1 oz lemon juice
This drink is inspired by the Mint Julep, a bourbon cocktail made with freshly muddled mint leaves, the go-to beverage of the Kentucky Derby. A Julep is generally served over crushed ice in a silver cup, but you can use whatever kind of ice or glass you have available in this muddle-free rendition. Mix the ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake or stir, then strain into a glass over ice. Garnish with thyme.
Pair with: Ham roasted with apples and pears, or a mushroom pizza with fresh herbs.
Party in Provence
1 oz gin
1 oz limoncello
1 oz thyme liqueur
Lemons are a big product of Provence, and so is limoncello. Celebrate this citrus surplus with this sweet and boozy cocktail. Shake the ingredients in a cocktail shaker and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with thyme or lemon.
Alternatively, you could opt for a booze-free version of this beverage, one which uses thyme simple syrup and lemonade, but evokes the same effect.
Pair with: Moules marinières, Grand Aioli, or a seafood platter.
Catherine Rickman is a writer and professional francophile who has lived in Paris, New York, and Berlin. She is currently somewhere in Europe with a fork in one hand and a pen in the other, and you can follow her adventures on Instagram @catrickman.