Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pop's Clacquesin

I wrote about Mama’s tsourekia, it seems only fair to write about Pop’s Clacquesin.

What the hell is this thing? It is a drink. French and hard to come by, they sell about 10 bottles a year. Nobody seems to drink it anymore. The distillery has even been made it into an event center; weddings, business meetings etc.

Pop went to Paris in 1927 to marry Mama. He was in the States before the Asia Minor catastrophe. Mom went to France after the catastrophe and they were married there. I wrote a blog about this part of their life.

Evidently my Father was introduced to Clacquesin when he was in Paris. It remained in his mind for years; he obviously could not get it in the States, at least not in Brooklyn. He would occasionally mention it in a very nostalgic way.

When my Mother and I went to Paris in the 40’s to visit my dying Grandmother, we must have brought him some bottles back, which my uncles got for him, they might have introduced it to him way back then in the 20’s.

This strange drink (Clacquesin) remained in my mind as well for years (60 years at least) for some weird reason. Without ever tasting it, it had the same effect on me as it had on Pop…I remembered it for years.

We met a French family here in Porto Heli a couple of years ago, and aside from them laughing at my pronunciation of Peugeot, they knew the drink that my father loved. They very kindly brought me a few bottles from France, which probably increased sales by 50%.

This drink has pine resin in it and other plants…which probably reminded Pop of foul tasting Retsina, which is made with pine resin as well. There might be a Greek connection after all; Frenchified Greeks might even have made it as well, although that is pushing it. The label implies a very exotic culture, jazz, dancers, and dinner jackets, almost bohemian.

Recently, my first cousin (her Father and my Mom were brother and sister) was visiting us. She was born in France and moved to Greece when she married a Greek. I showed her the bottle of Clacquesin that I had, she immediately perked up told me that her father and her uncle (my two uncles) would drink this together in Paris as an aperitivo. They drank it with lemon juice or lemonade. These were the guys that got Pop hooked on this drink.

Perhaps they all went to the clubs that are represented on the label. A Greek American candy-maker (Pop), two Greek French brothers-in-law that are tailors (my uncles) in a club listening to jazz, smoking cigars and drinking Clacquesin, having a great time, maybe even listening to Josephine Baker…I like that image, I hope they did it.

I now occasionally have one with lemon juice and toast Pop. It has been a long time, but the drink now has a role. My son and I will have a drink and feel a connection with family, uncles, Father and Grandfather, and I actually like it as a drink. We probably should be listening to Jazz and smoking cigars.


  1. What a sweet and wonderful tribute to your father. I can feel the love you have for your father through your words. You are very lucky to have had such a love for him. Many people have never had this closeness and you have preserved it so well. He must have been quite a man. Thanks for sharing.

    Well done Greg, well done.

  2. Clacquesin and all that jazz...Even the label has shadow figures across the bottom playing trumpets and trombones. Musical notes abound playfully floating and rising above the brand name and surrounding the image of a pretty young girl, implying that in the 1920's you were in the groove, hip, cool and one of the boy's as you downed this drink, very definitely an acquired taste. Still what fun it must have been for my father-in-law to pal around with his brother-in-laws...Paris, it must have been exciting, different; he had a keen eye and a sharp wit and after all is said and done he certainly enjoyed his new family, his stylish wife. I'll say he had quite a time and a sip of Clacquesin in New York, brought it all back.