Monday, April 13, 2015

Bottle Buy: St. Germain

If you're looking to splurge on a new addition to your bar, St. Germain is the one. Not only will it be the most gorgeous bottle on your shelf, but it's also one you'll find yourself reaching for time and time again. At this point, I consider it something of a necessity.

St. Germain is an elderflower liqueur. These tiny white flowers are hand-picked in the French Alps and, according to the makers of this charming concoction, bicycled to a nearby village before being shipped to the distillery. A tiny bicycler appears on the label above the name as an homage to this. Despite this old-fashioned process, St. Germain is a modern spirit - it was created in 2007. It was the first really new liqueur to come out in a long time, and its popularity exploded. By the time I had heard of it, it was already so ubiquitous that I assumed it had been around for a century.

What does elderflower taste like? St. Germain calls itself "La vie Parisienne en bouteille" ("The Parisian life in a bottle"), and this description seems oddly fitting when you taste it. It's very sweet and floral, with strong notes of pear. I find it too sweet to drink on its own (though people do), but added to a cocktail it is sheer perfection. It blends well with other ingredients. More than that, it blends unexpectedly with other ingredients. My favorite St. Germain cocktails so far are the Maximillian Affair, which pairs it with smoky mezcal, and the Battle of Trafalgar, which combines it with Pimm's and Batavia Arrack. It is perfect in both.

St. Germain

Price: $40
Alcohol Content: 20%
Popular Cocktails: St. Germain Cocktail/Hummingbird, St. Germain and Champagne

To really get a feel for St. Germain and it's dreamy taste, it's best to keep the cocktail simple, like the one below. The Vieux Mot, invented by Don Lee at PDT in New York, uses gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup to give the St. Germain the lead role. Vieux Mot literally means "old word" in French, but it refers to an old wise or witty saying.

Incidentally, a company in Somerville, MA is now making their own elderflower liqueur from American elderflowers called St. Elder. It has a slightly higher alcohol content. Tasting both next to each other, I'm afraid there was just no contest. The St. Elder just didn't have the harmonious flavor of the St. Germain, and wasn't as smooth. In a cocktail, though, I'm sure the difference would be subtle. I've already seen it replacing St. Germain in cocktails at Russell House Tavern, and I imagine it will continue to grow in popularity, given that it's half the price.

That bottle, though... I might just have to pour the St. Elder into an empty St. Germain bottle for display purposes.

Vieux Mot

1 1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. St. Germain
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass. No garnish.

Recipe adapted from The PDT Cocktail Book.

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