Tuesday, April 6, 2010

That Liqueur Is Alive! Alive!!

Last year, I wrote a piece for Imbibe about the coming resurrection—via Robert Cooper of St. Germain fame—of Creme Yvette. In the name of research, Robert sent me a vial of the purple stuff to taste and experiment with.

I remember Cooper fretting about whether the liqueur would hit the market as scheduled, and coincide with the article. He mentioned that he was still tweaking the product. The story appeared in September; Creme Yvette finally hits the shelves in March. 

A full sample, in its new and handsome vessel (another triumph of art deco design along the lines of St. Germain), soon arrived at my door. But something was different. The liquid seemed more vibrantly purple. I tasted it. The berry flavors were more pronounced than I recalled, the violet notes more subdued. I made a Blue Moon cocktail. The color of the drink popped as I didn't remember it had last summer; it was a vibrant, neon shade. And the cocktail drank better, too.

To confirm my suspicions, I took out what was left of the 2009 Creme Yvette sample. No doubt: the color was a softer, subtler violet, and the flavor tasted more of violets than berries.
Had the recipe been altered during the time between when I tried the sample and its commercial release? I contacted Rob Cooper to ask. He said, no, it was the same stuff, same recipe. "The product is identical," he replied in an e-mail, 

however, since it is all natural, the product you have from last summer is likely quite oxidized. This means you are definitely NOT tasting apples to apples. This could be giving you strong violet notes, or other various "prune-y" flavors, that could enhance the floral note.
We are proud of the artisanal and natural process, and believe there is an unnecessary expectation surrounding stability and consistency in well-crafted liqueurs. We are fighting to change the industry perspective on the reality that the finest liqueurs are "living, breathing, and evolving."

Like wine. Interesting. I have never thought of liqueurs in that way because, well, the liqueurs on my shelf never change. They taste the same, month after month. They certainly don't evolve.

It's an intriguing idea, aging liqueurs. Could there be a future market for liqueurs that have aged a bit? Will cocktailians begin to experience with drinks made with liqueurs when they've reached a certain point of age? Say, "Aviation Cocktail. Made with Plymouth gin, lemon juice, maraschino liqueur and eight-month-old Creme Yvette." I wouldn't be surprised.


Anonymous said...

The images I have seen of the original Creme Yvette show it to be a distinct purple color- more on the blue side than reddish, and certainly not the red wine color of the new product. Since Creme Yvette is used in several classic cocktails for its color, this new product is making a mockery of such drinks as the Blue Moon, Blue Train and Aviation, which now come out in various shades of pink. I'm delighted that Creme Yvette is back on the shelves, but this color has got to change!

Robert Simonson, "Our Man in the Liquor-Soaked Trenches"-New York Times. said...

Rob Cooper has mentioned that the source of many of the original ingredients of Yvette have disappeared. He had to find new places for the botanical, fruit, etc. This may explain the different color.