Mastika and its knightly order in Bulgaria

Photo: library

The word anise is often associated in Bulgaria with a cough syrup or mastika (strong anise-flavored alcoholic drink). Many people ovoid drinking this alcoholic beverage, which if consumed responsibly, has beneficial effect over the human body.

Anise has been widely used since time immemorial due to its qualities. It predetermined the establishment of the Guild of Anysetiers in 1263 during the reign of King Louis 9th (Saint Louis). Its members were physicians and apothecaries who used their thorough knowledge of the properties of the anise in the service of an ideal- to help others. Gradually, their organization turned into an order which now organizes various charity events, the President of the International Order of Anysetiers Claude Pieragostini told Radio Bulgaria:

We help children with disabilities with the money we raise during charity campaigns. Last year we made an exception and donated the money to the people injured during the Muccia earthquake in Italy. Our order does not mean that we are only connoisseurs of anise beverages. We even chose a slogan which makes us different from the people who like to drink mastika. However, it doesn’t mean that we don’t like this anise drink, Claude Pieragostini says with a smile on his face.

СнимкаAnise flavored alcoholic beverages are the most preferred summer drinks along the Mediterranean coast. Arak, Yeni Raki, Ouzo, Tsipouro, Sambuca, Pastis, Pernod, Ricard, Anisado and Mastika are various types of drinks containing anise. This beverage must be made or real anise and high-quality alcohol and should not contain any artificial flavorings and essences. The alcohol content ranges from 42% to 50%. It should be consumed with cold water and ice. Unlike the traditional Bulgarian rakia brandy it should not be kept refrigerated. Otherwise, the anethole oil (anise camphor oil) freezes and the drink tastes like alcohol mixed with cough syrup.

The Order of Anysetiers have nearly 90 commandries worldwide- in France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Spain, the USA, Reunion Island and French Polynesia. They are grouped in regions which cover between 7 and 15 commanderies. Each region has a chancellor and vice chancellor. The Order of Anysetiers was founded in 1955 by Paul Ricard and representatives of the high society, including writers, publishers and noblemen. Their purpose was to resume the traditions and values of the royal anysetiers.

The Bulgarian commendary is headquartered in Varna. It emerged at the initiative of the commendary in the city of Castres which is in friendly relations with the Association des Bulgares en Pays d’ Autan and the Association of Bulgarian Abroad. It is no secret that Sylvie Cazaoulou, a member of the Order of Anysetiers, played a key role in the process. She married Bulgarian Georgi Rashev, lecturer at the Alliance Francaise Varna and the Albena Department of New Bulgarian University. This is a love story which turned into something big, Claude Pieragostini says smiling. Thus, the French anysetiers discovered Bulgaria. Many of us visited your country for the first time. We like your hospitality, Claude Pieragostini added.

This year the congress of the International Order of Anysetiers is held in the city of Varna. It is accompanied with a one week trip across Bulgaria, Grand Master Georgi Rashev says. After the official part in Sofia and the enthronization of new members in Varna the programme includes a trip to the town of Balchik and some landmarks along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, the city of Plovdiv (Central South Bulgaria) and the Rose Valley. Some of our guests visited Bulgaria eight or nine times. They are big fans of the Bulgarian culture and were dressed in traditional Bulgarian folk costumes during the reception. They know the Bulgarian national anthem perfectly and sing it on various occasions. We have different thematic events each year. This year we chose rose picking. The guests brought aprons and comfortable shoes to take part at the rose-picking campaign. Our purpose is to support all actions and events related to anise flower. We also help people with disabilities, in particular a center for young people with mental disabilities situated in Varna as well as a hospital for the treatment of children with chronic diseases.

English version: Kostadin Atanasov

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