Basque in the Flavors of Fall

This cocktail from Anxo is a seasonal sipper made with Patxaran

By Tim Ebner

The Basque region of northern Spain is a culinary wonderland, rich in food fantasies. Close your eyes and just imagine mountains of bar-side pintxos, thick slabs of salted bacalao (cod fish) or layers upon layers of squid cooked in a rich, thick ink sauce. While most people gravitate to Basque cooking, there’s another local tradition worth exploring: drinking.   

Basque ciders, wines and spirits are as unique as the cuisine, and you don’t have to travel across the Atlantic to take a sip.  

That’s because Anxo, a new Basque cider house, bar and restaurant opened this summer in Truxton Circle. It’s the first official cidery to open in Washington, DC. Behind the bar, there are more than 22 ciders on tap.  

Soon, Anxo will start making its own cider, made with apples picked from around the city. While that’s still a work in progress, there’s another drink worth a try for its simplicity, fall freshness and distinctly Basque approach. Anxo bartender Zack Dratch is using an old-school spirit—a Basque digestif called Patxaran—for a gin fizz cocktail that’s well-balanced and has the subtle flavors of fall: anise, cinnamon and sloe berry. Dratch says the sloe berry is something unique to the season because it’s typically harvested after the first frost, around late October or early November. 

“Patxaran is kind of an herbaceous liqueur, and it’s typically something that Basque grandmothers will make in their kitchen or basement,” Dratch says. “We’re taking a traditional spirit, something that almost tastes like licorice, and lightening it up to make it super refreshing. 

For the at-home bartender, Dratch says it may take a few calls to find Patxaran. You’ll probably need to check a few specialty liquor shops. Right now, Schneider’s of Capitol Hill carries Patxaran. But, if you’re in a pinch, Dratch says Plymouth sloe gin is a suitable replacement with a similar body. 

 It only takes about five minutes to make. The most obvious sign that this cocktail is a fall favorite is its color. The drink has a slightly pinkish, rosy hue, reminiscent of a September sunset. 

“It’s the perfect drink right before the weather turns,” Dratch says. “And, it’s meant to be enjoyed outdoors.” 
So if you have a particularly slow afternoon to wallow away, head to Anxo’s outdoor patio. The Patxaran gin fizz is on the menu for $8. Just remember to do as the Basques do by raising your glass and saying “Topa!”  

English translation: Cheers! 


The Patxaran Gin Fizz

Recipe By Zack Dratch


  • 1½ ounces Tanqueray gin 
  • 1½ ounces Patxaran 
  • ¾ ounce lemon juice 
  • ¼ ounce simple syrup  
  • 1 star anise seed (for garnish)  


In a cocktail shaker over ice, combine the gin, Patxaran, lemon juice and simple syrup. If you’re unable to find Patxaran, Plymouth sloe gin is a suitable replacement. Seal the cocktail shaker and give the mix a vigorous shake. Take a highball glass with ice and strain the mix into the glass, until about half-full. Top off the drink with soda water, and garnish with a star anise seed. 

Tim Ebner is a food and drink writer based in Washington, DC. For a short period of time he lived in Bilbao, Spain, and has an obsession with all things Basque. Follow him on Twitter @TimEbner.