Pastis rivals rosé as the unofficial French drink of summer. The refreshing anise liqueur is a staple of many Paris cafés as well as most good picnics because of its breezy flavor and the drinker’s ability to control its strength (not to mention make it last for an hour) by diluting it with water. Ricard, the most popular brand of Pastis, has ingrained itself so deeply into the French culture that it now has its own retrospective at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, focusing on the powerful and clever ways Ricard has promoted its brand over the past 80 years.
When charismatic entrepreneur Paul Ricard launched the brand in 1932 in Marseille, France had recently banned absinthe and, more detrimentally to Ricard, the advertising of alcoholic drinks. Ricard had its work cut out for it when it came to promoting its new product. So instead of the usual route of advertising with posters and newspaper ads, Ricard came up with a revolutionary idea: to put the now-famous, colorful and blocky Ricard logo on glasses and pitchers and give them to Paris cafés and brasseries that sold its product. The idea placed the Ricard name in front of thousands of potential customers, and as the brand grew, Ricard even opened a “propaganda factory,” dedicated solely to creating glassware, dishes, ashtrays—anything that Paris cafés would use and that could bear the Ricard logo easily and elegantly.
Ricard began sponsoring events like concerts and car races in Cannes and Monaco, all of which had the Ricard name plastered on promotional posters and the cars themselves. As advertising laws eased over the years, Ricard seized the opportunity by printing ads that proclaimed, “Garçon! Un Ricard!” The now-famous slogan, simple and catchy, implanted itself in people’s minds and encouraged them to order their pastis in this familiar, brand-specific way. The idea was pushed even further with the 1984 slogan “Un Ricard sinon rien” (A Ricard or nothing).
The exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs features a comprehensive collection of vintage Ricard goods from the history of the Marseille pastis—the original glasses and pitchers, ceramic casts from the propaganda factory, kitschy commercials from the 1980s and beyond and an entire room dedicated to the progression of the distinctive Ricard bottle. There are even sculptures and paintings created by pop artists playing on the name and logo, showing how firmly planted the Ricard name is in French culture. Be prepared, though: the exhibition is like an advertisement in itself, and it works—you’ll be craving a pitcher by the time you leave.
If we’ve inspired the collector’s itch in you, check out some of the great vintage Ricard finds on eBay and Etsy.
Musée des Arts Décoratifs
Editor’s note: Don’t miss out! If you are a GG2P Travel Club member, you will be invited to the very exclusive American Friends of the Musée d’Orsay gala in Paris in September. With a membership, you’ll get $75 off the entry price. To learn more, send the organization an e-mail today at [email protected] or visit its website.