The Hummingbird:Two parts dry white or sparkling wine, one and a half parts St-Germain, two parts soda, garnished with a lemon twist.
La Bicyclette: Half part St-Germain topped with Champagne, garnished with a strawberry.
St-Germain Gin & Juice: Two parts gin, one part St-Germain, half part grapefruit juice, half part lime juice, topped with soda.
Le Roi Robert: Two parts Scotch, half part St-Germain, half part sweet vermouth, two dashes of bitters, garnished with a maraschino cherry.
French Vodka Gimlet: Two parts vodka, one part St-Germain, half part lime juice.
St-Germain Shandy: Five parts pilsner beer, one and a half parts St-Germain, juice of half a lemon.
Dia del Amor: Two parts tequila, one part St-Germain, three quarters part lime juice, two dashes of hot sauce, served in a salt-rimmed glass.
Le Père-Bis: One and a half parts Scotch, half part St-Germain, bar spoon of honey, chamomile tea, garnished with a clove-studded lemon wedge.
St-Tropez: One part Citroen vodka, one part St-Germain, half part lemon juice, topped with soda, garnished with a lemon twist.
Grand Autumn: Two parts Rye Whiskey, one part St-Germain, three quarters part lime juice, topped with ginger beer, garnished with two dashes of bitters.
Move over Campari, there’s a new liqueur in my life. I first had St-Germain, the elderflower liqueur years ago, but it was in some overpriced abomination of a cocktail, so I never noticed its bewitching delicacy until I had it on its own. Created by Robert Cooper, a third generation distiller and the former owner of Chambord (black raspberry liqueur), St-Germain is made from handpicked elderflower blossoms that grow wild in the French Alps. The story of how it’s made is idyllic enough to make us suckers swoon and the skeptics snort.
Over four to six weeks in the late spring, 40 to 50 men canvass the steep Alpine hillsides picking the fragile star-shaped white blossoms from elder bushes and ever-so-gently gathering them into sacks before mounting bicycles to deliver the precious goods to small collection stations dotted around the countryside. The harvesters get paid for their flowers by the kilo and then the blossoms are macerated (see Liqueurspeak 101) straight away in order to preserve their fresh, fleeting perfume. Each metal stopper on the heavy, eight-sided, Art Deco-styled bottles bears an individual number and the year that the flowers were picked.
If you’ve never had elderflower cordial (only truly popular among the British set, including my husband, who mixes it with water), then it’s hard to describe St-Germain’s flavor.
Passionfruit, pear, peach, lemon, and grapefruit all approximate, but clean and floral win out for me. Since we’re in dreamy land though, I offer the notion on St-Germain’s website: “It’s a little like asking a hummingbird to describe the flavor of its favorite nectar.”
Bartenders seem to love St-Germain too. At C&O one night, I wanted something refreshing after a wine-soaked dinner elsewhere. I asked the bartender to make me something with St-Germain and she excitedly delivered it over ice, mixed with white wine, a dash of bitters, and soda. A similar request at a dingy bar in New York’s East Village turned up a grin and a St-Germain-laced pint glass with Hendrick’s Gin, freshly muddled lemons, and soda over ice. The reticent server at New York’s Angel’s Share (a drink “parlor” tucked away in an upper floor Japanese restaurant) vigorously shook St-Germain with lychee and some other magical ingredient until frothy, and then poured it over one large ice cube. With hedonism smeared across my face, I told him, “I love this.” He responded, “I know.”
The possibilities for this glorious elixir are endless—whether you give your bartender free rein or mix up one of the 10 jet-setty cocktails to the right. I restocked my bottle of St-Germain two weeks ago and the larger of the two sizes was on sale at the ABC. Happy days.
Macerate (v.): To steep or soak flowers or fruit in spirits (eau-de-vie, brandy, grappa, etc.) until they soften and infuse the liquid with flavor and/or color.
One sweet label
Charlottesville’s favorite rock star, Dave Matthews, has lent his artistic hand to the labels of two new releases at Blenheim Vineyards, the winery that he designed and established in 2000. In Painted White 2010, winemaker Kirsty Harmon blended Chardonnay with Viognier and Marsanne for a nose described as “pear, caramel apple, and tones of vanilla.” In Painted Red 2010, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc co-mingle in a palate of “plum, bing cherry, and clove.” Both wines are aged in a combination of Hungarian, French, and American oak barrels. The white costs $25 and the red, $30. The wine was produced in limited amounts and is selling as fast as tickets to a DMB concert. Visit the vineyard to get this consumable memorabilia.