Lillet . . . it’s pronounced Lee-LAY. The T is silent. Why? Because it’s French, silly.
Cocktail culture is surging in popularity lately (thank you, Don Draper). I want to do my part, so I’m making Lillet Champagne cocktails for a couple of friends later this morning. Now, before you start thinking I’m on the Roger Sterling diet, I’ve spent the past couple of days reading and learning about Lillet. And while you can learn a lot about wine by reading, you can learn a lot more by tasting . . .
So what’s Lillet?
Lillet is an aperitif (a fancy French word that means, “drinking before dinner isn’t excessive, it’s elegant”) wine, from the Bordeaux region of France. Lillet comes in two varieties — Blanc and Rouge. It’s a blend of several Bordeaux wines — Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle for Lillet Blanc; Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon for Lillet Rouge. But here’s where it gets interesting: it also includes macerated liquors from different citrus fruits (sweet and bitter oranges) and quinine, a substance from the bark of the Peruvian cinchona or kina-kina tree. Sidebar: Quinine was used to treat malaria until the 1940s. It’s also a pain-killer, a fever-reducer, and a muscle relaxant. Hmm . . . I’m starting to think Lillet might be one of those “medicinally purposed” drinks.
How do you like your Lillet?
- Hannibal Lecter likes his Lillet chilled, over ice, with a slice of orange. (And you thought Dr. Lecter was strictly a Chianti man).
- James Bond prefers his Lillet shaken, not stirred, into a Vesper Martini, first ordered in the 1953 novel, Casino Royale.
- Martha Stewart enjoys her Lillet with fresh basil – Lillet-Basil Cocktail. Don’t forget the decorative garnish, or Martha will be disappointed.
- Jay Gatsby inspired the Great Gatsby Lillet cocktail from Highlands Bar & Grill in Alabama. That’s next on my to-try list!
- And my favorite (so far) . . . the Lillet Champagne Cocktail. I’m serving in vintage Champagne coupes that belong to my mom. Suddenly, I feel underdressed . . .