Monday, January 21, 2013


Yes it is the middle of Winter in Chicago.  Yes I, like many, have a preference for brown spirits and cocktails composed from such during these cold, light-starved days.  And yes, I have been staring at an unopened bottle of Lillet Rose on my shelf since mid October.  While the wind chills here in the Midwest might not be screaming, 'mix me up a Spring-influenced aperitif cocktail'...this month's Mixology Monday, graciously hosted by Chemistry of the Cocktail spurred me to think otherwise.  As proposed by Jordan...

Fortified wines began, in large part, as a way to deal with the difficulties of shipping wine long distances in the holds of sailing ships. Without the rigorous sterilization that is possible today, wines would often spoil en route. However, increasing the alcohol concentration to around 20% ABV was enough to keep them from going off. Coincidentally, this also made it possible to age those wines for very long periods, increasing their richness and depth.

These wines held an important place in the ur-cocktails of punch and have continued on in cocktails proper, the personal punches of the past several hundred years. Though less common nowadays, sherry, port, and, to a lesser extent, madeira and marsala, all find their way into various mixed drinks.

For this month's Mixology Monday, I'd like to see what you all can do with these versatile wines. They can play many different roles - from taking the place of vermouths in classic drinks, to providing richness and sweetness in winter tipples, to serving as a base for lighter aperitifs. Whether forgotten classics or new creations, let's see what you can put together.

And with that, I got to tasting. Sure, I had had cocktails using Lillet Rose, but had yet to really taste it on its own. Created as a blend of their Lillet Rouge and Blanc offerings, this Rose pairs the respective red and white Bordeaux varietals along with small amounts of proprietary red berry and orange liqueurs. It is a very nice aperitif, served well chilled or over ice, with a twist (as recommended). Bright crisp notes of champagne hit first, followed by a rather sweet, yet subtle bitterness that dries up to a candied orange finish.

While a simple substitution of this Lillet for a dry vermouth might add an interesting tweak to many a cocktail, with its floral fragrance and hints of orange on the finish, I though this would complement the the pungent hit of juniper, fir, and sage of the St George Terroir gin rather nicely.  A small amount of Yellow Chartreuse added an herbal sweetness, which was balanced with a touch of fresh lemon juice and a dash of grapefruit bitters.    

Saint Martin's Summer 
1 1/2 oz St George Terroir gin
1 1/2 oz Lillet Rose
1/2 oz Yellow Chartreuse
1/4 oz lemon
1 dash Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit bitters
Grapefruit zest

Combine all ingredients with ice and stir until well chilled, strain into a pre-chilled martini glass.  Garnish with a wide swath of grapefruit zest.

Saint Martin's Summer

A certain departure for the style of cocktail I prefer at this time of the year, but the Saint Martin's Summer (a French phrase often used to describe warm periods during fall/winter) put both the Lillet Rose and gin on display.  A crisp, herbal, and refreshing aperitif-style cocktail with plenty of pungent herbal kick from the intense Terroir gin and balanced offering of the slightly sweet floral and citrus notes of the Rose.  Thanks once again to Jordan at Chemistry of the Cocktail and please be sure to check out all of the great cocktails in the Round-Up - Cheers

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