The world highly regards the French for their wine, champagne, and cognac, but there’s much more to the French beverage culture than these classic alcoholic beverages.
Along with fine wine from Bordeaux and bubbly from Champagne, the French have a passion for beverages as diverse as a Cafe au Lait or cider and as simple as a cold bottle of fizzy Orangina or sparkling Perrier water.
Journey with us through the vineyards and cafes of France as we take a look at the most popular French drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic!
Popular alcoholic French drinks
The French love to have a good drink, but not quite as much as some of their neighbors. The French are estimated to enjoy an average of 12.6 liters of alcohol per person per year; in Luxembourg, it’s 13 liters per year, while in Germany, this average goes up to 15 liters per person!
The French love a glass of wine, but as you’ll see, wine isn’t all there is - it’s not even the national drink. Here are the most popular alcoholic drinks in France.
Let’s start with the French national drink, and of course, one of the most popular drinks in France. It’s not wine, it’s not champagne, it’s not cognac, but it is pastis!
Pastis is the French aperitif and dessert (served before or after dinner.) It has a distinctly bitter, licorice-like taste, which comes from the star anise and aniseed that the beverage is flavored with.
Pastis is generally enjoyed cold. Try using an Ice ball maker for perfectly shaped and purified ice to top off your afternoon pastis.
Of course, the list of the best French drinks couldn’t be complete without wine. After all, this country produces some of the most revered grapes and vintages in the world.
French wine is different everywhere you go because each wine-producing region has its own grapes, climate, and production methods.
The most famous grapes include the likes of Merlot and Pinot Noir (both red) and Chardonnay and Sauvignon black (both white.) Famed wine regions include Bordeaux and Burgundy, amongst many more!
Champagne is another classic French beverage, and technically, it’s a type of wine; sparkling wine!
Champagne has protected geographical status, and champagne grapes can only be grown in the Champagne region of France. Other regions grow similar sparkling wines, while the Spanish produce cava and the Italians enjoy prosecco!
One of the highly popular French cocktails is the Mimosa, which is 1 part champagne and 1 part orange juice.
Cognac is one of the most popular and well-known French brandies, but did you know that cognac production follows stringent laws to protect its uniqueness?
Cognacs are aged for at least two years, and they receive a unique rating based on their quality and the length of time they’ve aged.
Cognac was initially prepared in the town of Cognac, in southwest France, which remains the hub for cognac production in the country.
The French 75 is a famous, classic French cocktail that can trace its origins to the First World War. Created in 1915 and named for the French army’s 75-millimeter artillery piece, the French 75 is a potent cocktail that packs a punch (just like the artillery it’s named for!)
You can prepare a French 75 at home with the right ingredients. Create this tasty beverage with 1 part lemon juice, 2 parts gin, and 4 parts champagne. Mix everything together with crushed ice, and serve in a champagne glass!
Alcoholic cider is perhaps better associated with the United Kingdom, but the French also have a long cider tradition that’s made this beverage a firm favorite inside the country.
The best French cider is prepared from pressed apples grown in the temperate climate of Northwest France, particularly in Normandy. You can purchase it by the bottle in most French supermarkets if you’re looking for cheap yet authentic stuff!
Popular non-alcoholic French drinks
The French might enjoy a tipple or two, but there’s also a wide range of non-alcoholic beverages to wet your whistle when you’re exploring France.
There’s a great cafe culture here, so be prepared to enjoy plenty of Cafe au Lait (Coffee with Milk.) Sparkling water is big, too, as is the classic French soft drink, Orangina. Here are the most popular non-alcoholic drinks in France.
Cafe au Lait
Cafe au Lait is a type of coffee you’ll quickly become acquainted with when traveling in France because it’s the standard form of preparation. Cafe au Lait literally means coffee with milk, but it’s not quite as simple as that.
Cafe au Lait refers to a particular way of serving the milk. The milk has to be hot and is served alongside either a cup of espresso or a freshly pressed cup black of coffee. Enjoy a Cafe au Lait at sunrise with a croissant or pain au chocolat!
If you can name one French soft drink, then it’s probably going to be Orangina. This fabulous orange beverage has been explored across the world, and because it’s of French origin, it’s held in much higher regard than similar drinks such as Fanta Orange.
Orangina isn’t quite the same as Fanta because it’s prepared with much more fresh orange juice and even has the little bits left at the bottom of the bottle - yes, it’s charmingly rustic, in a way!
Enjoy an ice-cold Orangina on a hot summer’s day in France. You won’t forget that refreshing first sip of orangey goodness!
Perrier is French water, but this isn’t just any old French water! It might seem silly to revere naturally occurring mineral water, but Perrier is also naturally carbonated.
That’s right, Perrier water is naturally sparkling, and it’s bottled straight from the source in the southern town of Vergeze. Perrier has a very distinctive brand, and you may recognize their green, bubbly bottles and cans as they ship their sparkling water all over the world.
If soft drinks or sparkling water aren’t your things, then perhaps you’d delight in the simple joys of Citron Presse!
This unique drink is essentially lemonade (Citron Presse - pressed lemons) but is served in a rather unusual way. When you order Citron Presse, waiters will present you with freshly pressed lemon juice, sugars or sweeteners (often a sugar syrup), ice cubes, and cold water.
All the components of Citron Presse are provided individually, and you piece the drink together at your table. It’s fun, kind of classy, and it also ensures that you can make your lemonade as sugary or as bitter as you like!
Our final French drink takeaways
It’s time for the last orders! We’ve got to the end of our list of the top French drinks (non-alcoholic and alcoholic) to try when you’re next hosting a French-themed dinner party, or better yet, when you have the next opportunity to travel to France itself!
Beverage experiences are almost always better when tasted in the original scene. So take the trip when you get the chance!
French drinks truly are diverse, and whether you’re a wine sommelier, a cognac connoisseur, or just love a cold glass of Orangina, there’s something to be had for everyone in French bars and cafes.
If you’re looking to try the best French drinks, then bookmark our guide to the most famous French beverages.