(Stop groaning. It’s only going to get worse from here.)
Wes and I were browsing yesterday at a nifty antique shop and, naturally, stopped to peruse the barware section. They had a book on vintage barware, and in it was a recipe for a cocktail that sounded fascinating, and not only because I loved the name — the Tiger Lillet.
Lillet Blanc is, of course, the French aperitif white wine with hints of citrus and spice, and I’m quite fond of it. The recipe they printed didn’t quite add up, though — it called for 1/3 Lillet, 1/3 Van der Hum (a South African tangerine liqueur based on brandy) and 1/6 “Maraschino syrup”. Hmm. That’s only 5/6 of a drink. And what do they mean by Maraschino syrup? Do they mean Maraschino liqueur, or the thin sweet “juice” that the maraschino cherries come in? Was there a cocktail flavoring product back then that was a low- or no-alcohol cherry syrup? Despite this hole in the recipe, I thought the drink sounded very promising.
The web to the rescue! I found a site that had a more complete recipe which stated, as did the book, that the drink was the winner of the World Cocktail Championship in London in 1952, and was created by a barman named Mr. J. Jones (now that’s an unusual name). Here’s the actual recipe:
1/3 Van der Hum.
1/6 Dry Vermouth.
Shake and Strain. Serve with small piece of Orange Peel.
BZZZZZT! The dry vermouth just killed it for me. I do not like vermouth of any kind. I do not like it in a bar, I do not like it in a car. I do not like it in my drink; tastes quite nasty, that I think.
So … how to go about changing this drink to suit my taste? Well, for starters, in all my digging through the two finest wine and spirits shops in Los Angeles, I’d never once seen Van der Hum liqueur. Fortunately, right there in my bar cabinet is a bottle of Mandarine Napoléon, another tangerine liqueur that’s based on brandy, which I thought would make an excellent substitute. We’re also fine for the Maraschino — I love Liquore de Maraschino, and I have a bottle of Luxardo’s fine product right there in my bar.
Now, to replace the vermouth. For a 3-ounce drink, I’m really only substituting one tablespoon’s worth of liquor. I think the 1/3 Lillet content takes care of the aperitif wine flavor without adding more from vermouth, so I thought a bit about what might complement the flavor of both the Lillet and the Mandarine Napoléon. Cointreau and Grand Marnier were out, because I thought we had the citrus flavor covered. How ’bout … Cognac? Hmmmmm. Complimentary flavor, keeps it all French (“IT IS BELGIAN!” shrieks Poirot predictably, while sipping a cordial glass of Mandarine Napoléon) and gives it a slight extra kick. I like it. I liked it even better when I mixed one up and drank it last night.
Now, to name the drink. I can’t call it a Tiger Lillet anymore, since one ingredient has changed. That’s one of the cardinal laws of cooking — if you steal a recipe, you can get away with it by changing an ingredient or two, and then changing the name of the dish.
What’s Up, Tiger Lillet? I like Woody Allen, but that’s too close to the original. Calla Lillet? Kate Hepburn might like it, but I dunno… Gilded Lillet? Hrmm. Lillet Munster? Too silly! Lillet of the Valley? Lillet of the Field? Bleuchh. I really didn’t consider Consider The Lillet, either.
Finally, it struck me. I named the drink for someone I’ve really liked for a very long time and whose work has given me a great deal of enjoyment over the years. And that’s the truthhhhhh.
1 ounce Lillet.
1 ounce Mandarine Napoleon.
1/2 ounce Cognac.
1/2 ounce Maraschino liqueur.
Shake with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry WITH STEM, and a thin slice of orange perched on the rim of the glass.
Garnish additionally with two ringy-dingys and serve to the party to whom you are speaking.