November 29, 2012

DRINK: Art of the aperitif, The Lillet

The moment I tasted this delicate, refreshing wine-like drink, I imagined myself at a Frenchman's house being served endless glasses, working up my appetite for a meal that is about to ensue. The Lillet (French, pronounced lil-lay) is an aperitif wine. The name itself exudes sophistication.  It can be found at any major spirits and wine shop as Lillet blanc or Lillet rouge.  It is James Bond's favorite "secret" ingredient, and fitting for a sophisticated secret agent as himself.  In the novel Casino Royale, the fictional secret agent added the Kina Lillet into his martini instead of vermouth and a lemon peel instead of an olive.  And thus was born a refined martini invented by a spy.  Bond eventually calls the drink, the now famous "Vesper" cocktail,  after the novel's female leading character Vesper Lynd.  Adding a touch of French can classy-fy anything Oui, Oui.  And now you ask, what is an aperitif?

As wiki simply puts it, an aperitif is an alcoholic beverage usually served before a meal to stimulate the appetite.  A fancy word for a drink served as appetizer, if you will.  It is a French word derived from the Latin verb aperire, which means “to open".  To open your palate for the feast that is about to commence.  After a drink, no one really cares, but I'm here to tell you anyways.  Champagne, prosecco and other sparkling wines are sometimes served as aperitifs.  Classic aperitif cocktails are the Martini, the Manhattan, the Old-Fashioned and the Sidecar.  Champagne is sparkling wine but not all sparkling wine is champagne just as all scotch/bourbon is whisky but not all whisky is scotch or bourbon.  But I digress.  All aperitifs are appetizers but not all appetizers are aperitifs.  Toma(y)to, tomato, you get it. :)

Like prosecco,  you can enjoy the Lillet by itself or in cocktail.  Unlike the Lillet,  prosecco is Italian and sparkling (fizzy) and is usually used to make the famous Italian cocktail, the Bellini.  I took inspiration from the French cocktail called the Sidecar (one of the only claimed good cocktails to come out of Prohibition era) which is usually made from cognac and made up my own version with Kentucky whiskey bourbon instead and took James Bond's lead and added some French Lillet! After some research, I found a drink similar to my version sans the Lillet.  It's called a Scotchsicle after the orange cream popsicle aka the Dreamsicle.  So I think I'll name this drink the "Kentucky Dream".   It's like a burly Kentucky cowboy (Makers Mark) had a lovechild with an elegant French model (The Lillet).  Seems appropriate?  There must be a better name ... please feel free to leave a fitting name in the comments or email!  To help inspire a name,  see below for my creation and instructions. 

Ingredients:   (per serving)

  • 2 ounces whisky (I used Makers Mark.) 
  • 1 ounce Lillet blanc (magical, secret ingredient)
  • 3/4 ounce orange juice (or orange liqueur)
  • 3/4 ounce vanilla liqueur (vanilla syrup or vanilla vodka)
  • Ground cinnamon, for dusting.
  • Cinnamon stick for stirrer, tangerine or orange for garnish. 

Directions:  Combine ingredients in a cocktail tumbler with ice. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass! Easy. Or serve on the rocks. Serving it this way, the taste will be more diluted because of the ice, but that's how I like my drinks so you serve it how you like it! Garnish with a light dusting of powdered cinnamon sugar.  Add a cinnamon stick as stirrer and cut orange slices (I used a tangerine here) for side garnish. You  can squeeze the orange into drink or use it to rim the glass.  

Thanks to the The Lillet, I am now a recent convert to art of the aperitif -- which just means I would like to adopt the European custom of not being in any hurry to eat.  Serve the Lillet on its own as a true aperitif and dine like the French or add a splash into your bourbon and drink like an American.  Either way, have yourself a merry little dreamy drink,  perfect for the holiday season!  

xoxo,  cheers!

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