Tales of the Cocktail: Liqueurs and Cordials

The world’s pokiest event recapper here, with more details of Tales … only 40 days after the fact. Hey, that’s not bad for me.

Next after the amari was a seminar with the slightly unwieldy title of “History of Liqueurs and Cordials, and Their Important Role in Cocktails Both Classic and Contemporary,” with a panel consisting of Rob Cooper, whose family business is Jacquin et Cie and who founded Cooper Spirits International, makers of the fabulous St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur; Dr. Cocktail; Dave Wondrich and mixologist Chad Solomon of Cuff and Buttons. I thoroughly enjoyed the session, but unfortunately am missing most of my notes from that one … d’oh.

One of the liqueurs prominently featured was the long-lost and elusive Crème Yvette, named for the French actress Yvette Gilbert around the turn of the 20th Century, which has been out of production for decades. It’s a violet-based liqueur similar to crème de violette, but with the addition of vanilla and other spices to give it more complexity. There was some vintage Crème Yvette on hand to taste, as well as a new version that, we hope, will be hitting the market again in early 2009 and will give yet another great boost to the world of cocktails.

I’m still a big fan of crème de violette — it’s a necessasry component in the original Aviation and several other cocktails — but cannot WAIT for Yvette to make its return. We tasted a lab sample of the new stuff, and I found it to be a bit rounder and more balanced than the violette, fruitier and a bit less floral. (It’ll be great to make Blue Moons with this.) It was grapey in the nose, with a definite fragrance of vanilla. On the palate it was citric, with fruit up front and the floral aspects of the violets in the finish. Lovely, lovely stuff.

The early arrivers were also regaled with handmade versions of this infamous layered cocktail, made by Dave Wondrich himself! (I wasn’t an early arriver, ended up way in the back, and didn’t get one. Hrmph.)

Pousse Café

1/3 Plymouth Sloe Gin.
1/3 Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur.
1/3 Crème Yvette.

Layer ingredients in a cordial glass by carefully pouring each liqueur very slowly, based on their density (heaviest first) into the glass over the back of a barspoon.

Serve layered, and sip slowly.

We were also excited about the potential return of another long-lost classic liqueur, which was made by Jacquin, the company run by Rob Cooper’s dad and grandfather since just after Prohibition. Forbidden Fruit is a brandy-based pommelo liqueur (a citrus fruit similar to grapefruit) sweetened with honey, and it’s fabulous, fabulous stuff.

Forbidden Fruit liqueur

There’s a bottle of vintage Forbidden Fruit, with a fuzzy Rob Cooper in the background. (I have a tiny 1/10th pint size miniature that’s still mostly full.) If the bottle looks familiar — like the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch — well, actually like a Chambord bottle — it’s because both liqueurs were made by Jacquin at the time. The Chambord brand was sold off to Brown-Forman many years ago, so when Forbidden Fruit returns it won’t be in that iconic bottle. There’s no timetable yet for its return — we sampled a lab batch as well as the vintage, and the lab batch isn’t quite there yet. We did get a cocktail, though, one of 26 Forbidden Fruit cocktails listed in CocktailDB and, I hope, the start of many more:

The Tantalus Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces brandy.
3/4 ounce Forbidden Fruit.
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice.

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Here’s one more recipe for a cocktail with a powerful liqueur as its modifying ingredient. If you’ve never had green Chartreuse before, find a good liquor store that has a good selection of miniatures and try it. It’ll blow you away, and you may be unprepared for the depth and complexity of its flavor. (It’s powerful stuff too, at 110 proof!) It looks to me to be a variation of the Last Word cocktail, one of my favorites, adjusting the proportions in favor of the gin and swapping out simple syrup for the maraschino.

Daisy Mae Cocktail
(from the Flatiron Lounge, New York)

2 ounces Junipero gin.
1 ounce fresh lime juice.
3/4 ounce green Chartreuse.
3/4 ounce simple syrup.

Shake with ice and strain over the rocks in an Old Fashioned glass. Garnishsed with a mint sprig.

Most of my pictures turned out to be crap, but I did get a shot of one of the interesting bottles Rob brought along:

Jacquin combo bottle

love those old bottles containing four chambers with four liqueurs. Not terribly practical, but nifty anyway.

Next seminar … Gary Regan and LeNell Smothers, and American whiskies. (Boy, that one will be on fire.)