Wednesday, May 13, 2009
The Next St. Germain?
How do you follow up a smash like St. Germain?
Well, if you're Robert Cooper—the creator of that industry-wowing, elderflower-informed liqueur, which has become a staple behind every hip bar over the past two years—you do it with Creme Yvette.
Creme Yvette was a defunct proprietary liqueur made from parma violet petals, berries, vanilla and other flavors and spices. It was once manufactured by Charles Jacquin et Cie in the United States, who purchased the brand formerly made by Sheffield Company of Connecticut. But it went out of circulation in 1969, just as Cocktaildom's Death Valley Days began. Since then, it has become one of those elusive, ungettable products that spelunking mixologists yearn after in order to properly make certain pre-Prohibition cocktails.
Eric Seed of Haus Alpenz helped relieve the agony a little while back when he brought out his Creme de Violette, causing all cocktail geeks to jump up and down like children because they could now make a proper Aviation. One would think that would have deterred Cooper from bringing Creme Yvette back from the dead. Does the world need two violet-flavored liqueurs? I must admit, when Cooper told me he was looking into Creme Yvette a year or so ago, I was skeptical of the product's potential draw.
Creme Yvette is not yet on the market, but Cooper has been toting around samples of the purple stuff to various bartenders and bar owners to see what they think. One made its way to my door.
With the first smell and sip, I began to think that Cooper's efforts may have been worth it. First of all, it's not a ditto of the Creme de Violette, so this is not a question of two identical products on the market. It's color is a deeper purple. The Violette is actually the color of violets. This is more the shade of blueberry juice.
The berry notes continue all through the product. In addition to the requisite violet scent, you get a rich variety of berry flavors on the nose and the palate, along with vanilla. It's a fairly rich, viscous product, with a surprising amount of depth.
I tried it an Aviation and a Blue Moon, and was pleased. The color is gave the Blue Moon was quite spectacular; a beautiful, sunset-worthy streak of light lavender. But it was an obscure cocktail out of Harry McElhone's "Barflies and Cocktails" that really sold it for me.
According to the book, the Ping-Pong Cocktail was invented by James G. Bennet at the Broken Glass Cafe in St. Louis, in 1901. It's equal parts Sloe Gin and Creme Yvette shaken with a teaspoon of lemon juice, and strained into a cocktail glass with a cherry garnish. It doesn't sound like genius, does it? But the Sloe Gin and Yvette play nicely together. It's not a fragrant, berry overload, as you might expect. And it shows that Yvette can work in largish amounts, which I had doubted up until then.
I also suspect Yvette will work beautifully in egg-based, frothy libations