Friday, February 21, 2014

Lillet (because you need good aperitifs in your life)

I've been meaning to try Lillet for ages.  I finally did, and I'm mad at myself for not doing it sooner.  Lillet (or Lillet Blanc) is a French aperitif wine (meaning it's traditionally drunk before a meal) from Bordeaux, France.  It's blended from 85% Bordeaux wine and 15% sweet liqueur made with orange peels.  The wine portion is made from the traditional white Bordeaux grapes - Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle.  (There's also a Lillet Rouge made from red grapes and a Lillet Rose, but the white or blanc is the traditional version.)

Lillet is not as sweet as dessert wine.  You won't find the sweetness overpowering or cloying, because it has plenty of acid for balance.  It tastes much like a white Bordeaux, with the citrusy, grassy, herbal notes of the Sauvignon Blanc, the honeyed-peach qualities of Semillon, and the grapey-ness of Muscadelle.  Then imagine adding more orange flavors, more sweetness, and more alcohol (up to 17% abv).  A standard 750 ml bottle is $20, so Lillet is not cheap.  But as you drink a few ounces over ice in the traditional French way, you will find it money well spent.  In America Lillet is more commonly used as a cocktail or dessert ingredient.  Here are more ways to drink (or eat) Lillet.

I tested nearly all the Lillet cocktail recipes I could find and wrote down my impressions.  My favorites were the ones that played off the flavors already present in the Lillet - citrus, peach/apricot, and herbs - and the one with the lavender syrup, because I'm a lavender freak.  These cocktails should be shaken and/or served over ice.

Vesper - James Bond ordered this drink in Casino Royale.  If you like martinis, you'll like this.
  • 3 oz gin
  • 1 oz vodka
  • 1/2 oz Lillet

Incognito - I like this.  It has the flavors of apricot and Lillet, made stronger by the brandy.  Sweet but not overly so.
  • 1 oz brandy
  • 2 oz Lillet
  • 1/3 oz (2 tsp) apricot brandy
  • dash of bitters

Twentieth Century - Gin, Lillet, and citrus combine beautifully, but I don’t like the chocolate here.  That’s a personal preference - chocolate + herbal + citrus isn't my thing.  If you like orange flavored chocolates, you’ll like this more than I do.  Sweet, but not like candy, quite tart.
  • 1 2/3 oz gin
  • 2/3 oz Lillet
  • 2/3 oz white creme de cacao
  • 1/3 oz fresh lemon juice

Hoopla - Good, lots of citrus and not too sweet.
  • 1 oz brandy
  • 2/3 oz (4 tsp) Cointreau
  • 2/3 oz Lillet
  • 2/3 oz fresh lemon juice

Corpse Reviver #2 - I haven't tried this one yet, but I'm sure I would like it.  As I mentioned above, gin + citrus + Lillet is a great combination.  The licorice flavor of the absinthe would complement the herbal notes in the Lillet.
  • 3/4 ounce gin
  • 3/4 ounce lemon juice
  • 3/4 ounce Cointreau (or triple sec)
  • 3/4 ounce Lillet
  • 1 dash absinthe

Old Etonian - Very nice, but strong, and you'd better like gin.  I went a tad heavy on the crème de noyaux because I like it.
  • 1.5 oz. gin
  • 1.5 oz. Lillet
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 2 dashes crème de noyaux

The Wheesky - Tastes mostly like whisky, but the Lillet adds a nice fruitiness and a touch of sweetness.  You need to be a whiskey fan for this one.
  • 1 part Lillet 
  • 2 parts Irish whiskey
  • dash or 2 of lemon juice

Gin-Lillet-Lemonade - The names describes this well.  Like strong lemonade with gin and Lillet.  I'm tempted to play with the proportions and try a version with slightly less gin and lemon.
  • 1.5 oz gin
  • 0.5 oz Lillet 
  • 0.5 oz lemon juice 
  • 0.5 oz simple syrup
  • 2-3 drops of citrus bitters

Lavender Lemonade with Lillet (from Design Sponge) - The night I tried to make this I happened to be out of both vodka and my first-choice substitute, which would have been gin.  I was really annoyed too, because I had made lavender syrup specially for this.  Not to be deterred, I tried a version with whiskey, which was delicious.  All the flavors balanced into sweet, flowery, citrus, whiskey yumminess.  I still want to try it with vodka some time.  I'm certain it would be delicious.
  • 1.5 oz vodka 
  • 1.5 oz Lillet Blanc
  • 1 oz lavender syrup **
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 2 oz chilled soda water
** There's a recipe for lavender syrup at the link above.  If you love the flavor of lavender like I do, consider doubling the amount of lavender in the recipe.


Lillet Buttermilk Shake (from
  • 2 cups / 1 pint vanilla ice cream (or creme fraiche ice cream)
  • 1/3 cup / 80 ml Lillet
  • 1/3 cup / 80 ml buttermilk
Martha Stewart's Peach-Raspberry Clafouti
Recipe at the link above.

1 comment:

  1. Check out this easy recipe for Vin d'Orange. It's a cousin of Lillet and can be used as a reasonable substitute.