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JAZ

Lillet

152 posts in this topic

Thinking again about why the Imperial Cocktail seemed similar to a drink made with Cocchi Americano and also the quotes I posted yesterday.

These words from the description came to mind:

Called Americano, due to an acoustical distortion of “amaricante,” or bittering component of a drink, these drinks flavored with bitter orange peel, quinine, chinchona bark, and alpine herbs were at the height of their popularity before the turn of the 19th century.

Specifically, the "alpine herbs".

Dolin Vermouth de Chambery is specifically made with what they call "alpine herbs".

Other than some alpine species of wormwood, I've never been exactly clear on what is meant by "alpine herbs", but maybe that is where the flavor commonality between the two lies.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Thinking again about why the Imperial Cocktail seemed similar to a drink made with Cocchi Americano and also the quotes I posted yesterday.

These words from the description came to mind:

Called Americano, due to an acoustical distortion of “amaricante,” or bittering component of a drink, these drinks flavored with bitter orange peel, quinine, chinchona bark, and alpine herbs were at the height of their popularity before the turn of the 19th century.

Specifically, the "alpine herbs".

Dolin Vermouth de Chambery is specifically made with what they call "alpine herbs".

Other than some alpine species of wormwood, I've never been exactly clear on what is meant by "alpine herbs", but maybe that is where the flavor commonality between the two lies.

thanks for blowing my secret source for vintage lillet... =) i just ordered a couple bottles and they claimed they could ship to boston... wonderful people over there at corti brothers... it seems like that grocery store-wine shop is the sole tiny importer... its really wonderful to see people creating a market for these small traditions...


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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To sort of answer my own question, Ricola's Alpine Herb Extract being the most famous collection of Alpine Herbs: "Ricola's famous herbal extract of plantain (Plantago lanceolata), marshmallow (Althaea officinalis), peppermint (Mentha piperita), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), sage (Salvia officinalis), lady's mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris), elder flowers (Sambucus nigra), cowslip (Primula veris), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), burnet (Pimpinella saxifraga), speedwell (Veronica officinalis), mallow (Malva sylvestris), and horehound (Marrubium vulgare)."


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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thanks for blowing my secret source for vintage lillet... =) i just ordered a couple bottles and they claimed they could ship to boston... wonderful people over there at corti brothers... it seems like that grocery store-wine shop is the sole tiny importer... its really wonderful to see people creating a market for these small traditions...

Hey! I didn't say anything about the Jean de Lillet! Dammit, why'd you say anything! Now Mayur's going to buy it all!

Ahem.

Sigh. In the spirit of share and share alike, Mr. BostonApothecary pointed out to me that a certain supplier has a certain product:

Lillet's Secret Reserve - Jean De Lillet

Réserve Jean de Lillet, always vintage dated, is produced from appellation controlée wines which, depending on the vintage, quality, and pricing, come from Entre-Deux-Mers, Graves, Première Côtes de Bordeaux and even from Sauternes. Peels of sweet and bitter oranges from Spain, Morocco, Haiti, Mexico and South America as well as other secret fruits, eight more, are cold macerated in brandy for four to six months, then blended with the wines and then further aged. For Jean de Lillet, aging is done in oak barriques, a third new and two thirds second use. Aging Jean de Lillet produces remarkable results, but you must do it. The bottling we offer is from the 2004 vintage, which has to be called “LOT 2004.” If you can keep your hands off it, it will age well for years.

According to the Corti Brothers' representative, "Kina Lillet is what Jean de Lillet was called before WWI. The '04 Jean de Lillet that we exclusively have is sweeter than what Kina Lillet was. Kina Lillet no longer exists."

I will also add that the nice folks at Corti Brothers are currently out of stock of Cocchi Americano, but say they will have it back soon. So perhaps all is not lost on the Kina Lillet front!


Edited by eje (log)

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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thanks for blowing my secret source for vintage lillet... =) i just ordered a couple bottles and they claimed they could ship to boston... wonderful people over there at corti brothers... it seems like that grocery store-wine shop is the sole tiny importer... its really wonderful to see people creating a market for these small traditions...

Hey! I didn't say anything about the Jean de Lillet! Dammit, why'd you say anything! Now Mayur's going to buy it all!

MUHAHAHAHAHA!

Actually, in all seriousness, I'm rather fond of what I've got infusing right now: A Moscato Giallo fortified to 17% with unaged brandy, sweetened to about 22 brix, and aromatized with fresh lemon and orange peel, bitter orange peel, quinine, cinnamon, cloves, and (after a conversation with donbert) apricot kernels.

The "alpine herbs" bit is interesting. Any time I've tried putting in anything like a common vermouth herb (thyme, sage, wormwood, elderflower, horehound), my Lillet replica ends up tasting distinctly less... er, Lillet-ish and more like a vermouth (the Martelli Vermouth Classico comes to mind). Somehow, the effect of those herbs is enhanced in something as delicate as Lillet, whereas a more robust aromatized wine (Noilly Ambre or a standard red vermouth) can deal with them.


Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"

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Quinine, orange, cinnamon...definitely.  But, I just took a quick sip from my open bottle of Cocchi and couldn't really detect any almond note.

[...]

It never occurred to me either, until I noticed flavor similarities to drinks made with Americano and when I made the Imperial Cocktail. Maybe they're using a grappa to fortify it and that's what I'm tasting?

OK, I just made an Imperial (Plymouth, Noilly, Luxardo, Angostura), and I absolutely see what you mean about it reminding you of drinks made with Cocchi. There's something about the bit of dryness brought by the Maraschino, and the spice of the Angostura that reminds me as well of the flavor party that Cocchi brings to a cocktail.

And it's a lovely drink, to boot. This one's going in the regular rotation. And I suspect that it might be even better with the Fee's Barrel Aged.


"Martinis should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously one on top of the other." - W. Somerset Maugham

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thanks for blowing my secret source for vintage lillet... =) i just ordered a couple bottles and they claimed they could ship to boston... wonderful people over there at corti brothers... it seems like that grocery store-wine shop is the sole tiny importer... its really wonderful to see people creating a market for these small traditions...

Hey! I didn't say anything about the Jean de Lillet! Dammit, why'd you say anything! Now Mayur's going to buy it all!

MUHAHAHAHAHA!

Actually, in all seriousness, I'm rather fond of what I've got infusing right now: A Moscato Giallo fortified to 17% with unaged brandy, sweetened to about 22 brix, and aromatized with fresh lemon and orange peel, bitter orange peel, quinine, cinnamon, cloves, and (after a conversation with donbert) apricot kernels.

your project sounds interesting. is a written recipe around the corner?


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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So I tried Cocchi Americano, Lillet Blanc, and Jean de Lillet up against one another tonight.

Lillet Blanc is a fresh, young tasting wine base with a strong orange component.

Cocchi Americano is sweet, very spicy and strongly bitter.

Jean de Lillet would probably be mistaken for a slightly odd French dessert wine. Say a decent young Sauterne. There is a tiny (not forgetting I am very bitter tolerant) bit of bitterness in the aftertaste, but it is all very well incorporated. The wine base is the dominant element, moreso than the other two beverages.

Making drinks, I think I still have a strong preference for the Cocchi Americano. The Jean de Lillet made a very nice Barney Barnato Cocktail, I must admit. But I missed the spicy, bitter kick of the Cocchi Americano.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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So I tried Cocchi Americano, Lillet Blanc, and Jean de Lillet up against one another tonight.

Lillet Blanc is a fresh, young tasting wine base with a strong orange component.

Cocchi Americano is sweet, very spicy and strongly bitter.

Jean de Lillet would probably be mistaken for a slightly odd French dessert wine.  Say a decent young Sauterne.  There is a tiny (not forgetting I am very bitter tolerant) bit of bitterness in the aftertaste, but it is all very well incorporated.  The wine base is the dominant element, moreso than the other two beverages.

Making drinks, I think I still have a strong preference for the Cocchi Americano.  The Jean de Lillet made a very nice Barney Barnato Cocktail, I must admit.  But I missed the spicy, bitter kick of the Cocchi Americano.

i have a feeling that old school lillet is just as boring and orangey as the new stuff... if you want elegant bitter and depth of flavor americanos are were its at... if my jean de lillet ever gets here i'm going to toss it in the wine cellar and bring it up in a few years... the idea of an "odd French dessert wine" sounds awsome...

i just ordered three different americanos that i know nothing about on faith. one is a barolo chinato and the other is made with a moscato base... i will post some reviews if they ever get here... (last time they ended up back ordered) if you like bitter, nardini has some nice 21rst century alto cucina grappa based americanos...


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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Anyone tried Orange Columbo?

It's an orange flavored quinquina from the people who make RinQuinQuin (peah flavored). It is pretty different to either Dubonnet or Lillet (less winey), but has more quinine bitterness than Lillet, and a similar orange flavor.

I've tried cutting it 50/50 with Lillet in Vespers. That comes out pretty nice.

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So, I'm experimenting with Lillet Rouge. I bought some for two reasons: because it's almost never called for, and because it's rarely talked about. And because it's readily available in PA (which is strange for an item that so many people have reported being unable to find). Ok, three reasons.

I tried it in a Negroni variation subbing it for the vermouth. The result is a drink that is distinctly different than a Negroni, but very tasty. I'd say the combination works successfully.

Also tried it in a Deshler, subbing it for the Dubonnet. This worked even better. While the Lillet Rouge is certainly not the same as Dubonnet (and many feel it to be a poor substitute), the Deshler didn't suffer from using LR. Like the Negroni, a little different, but quite good.

The biggest failure was in attempting to create something original. It seemed logical that this ingredient should be able to work with brandy somehow. I tried 2 parts brandy, 1 part Lillet Rouge, dash of Grand Marnier, and orange bitters. The result was actually kind of bland and uninteresting. Maybe too much brandy. There still might be the genesis of a decent drink there.

There really is a dearth of recipes that actually call for the stuff. Even Lillet's own website lists only 3 drink recipes (none of them very tempting), while they list a whole slew of recipes for the blanc. As some have already suggested, LR is very good straight (on the rocks), and that may well be its best use, but I see no reason that other good uses for it can't be discovered. Maybe if they called Lillet Rogue . . .


Mike

"The mixing of whiskey, bitters, and sugar represents a turning point, as decisive for American drinking habits as the discovery of three-point perspective was for Renaissance painting." -- William Grimes

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So I was chatting with a friend who works for the Lillet Company.

They had mentioned a few of the questions brought up in this topic to the Master Blender at Lillet, who got a bit, oh, cranky.

Interesting points:

According to the Master Blender, the only thing which changed about the Lillet in the 1980s was the label. What was in the bottle labelled Kina Lillet did not change when they switched to calling it Lillet Blanc. It was simply a re-branding. My friend tasted some Lillet samples from before the rebranding and confirmed this fact. My friend has an excellent taste memory and palate, so I have no reason to doubt them.

As far as Lillet is concerned the Jean de Lillet product is as close to an authentic reproduction of vintage Kina Lillet or the Lillet which is/was made for the French market as they will admit.

The only bittering agent which has ever been used in Lillet is Quinine, thus the Gentian (and other herbs and spices) in Cocchi Americano take it quite far from anything which the Lillet company has ever made.

Questions:

While it is interesting to note that the relatively modern version of the Lillet product(s) remain unchanged, what was the character of Kina Lillet which was sold at the time of the creation of the Corpse Reviver (No. 2)?

What about that "Lillet Export Double Quinine" which was available around 1900 in the US and West Indies?


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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My friend tasted some Lillet samples from before the rebranding and confirmed this fact. My friend has an excellent taste memory and palate, so I have no reason to doubt them.

how old were the samples when your friend tasted them? this stuff ages. i already think the vintage dated jean de lillet i have is frail and dieing.

As far as Lillet is concerned the Jean de Lillet product is as close to an authentic reproduction of vintage Kina Lillet or the Lillet which is/was made for the French market as they will admit.

not surprising and it is very different than the current incarnation. but the stuff still isn't that amusing. it basically is a sauternes with aroma synthesized by citrus peels.

The only bittering agent which has ever been used in Lillet is Quinine, thus the Gentian (and other herbs and spices) in Cocchi Americano take it quite far from anything which the Lillet company has ever made.

lillet and even bonal seem to focus mainly on aromas that increase the perception of sweetness. this makes them more akin to natural wines which are dominated by such aromas, (mainly fruit expressions) and also makes them sort of boring to me.

cocchi americano, borolo chinato, vergano "luli", and even regular sweet and dry vermouth focus more on aromatic tension via having both aromas that increase the perception of sweetness and those that decrease it. the intense aromatic tension they create is more exciting to me and i prefer those products to any reenactment type of experience.

While it is interesting to note that the relatively modern version of the Lillet product(s) remain unchanged, what was the character of Kina Lillet which was sold at the time of the creation of the Corpse Reviver (No. 2)?

What about that "Lillet Export Double Quinine" which was available around 1900 in the US and West Indies?

i bet the original version of lillet was fairly boring relative to our current understanding of what is artistically possible (cocci americano, vergano luli)

the double quinine product sounds kinda cool, but that is just one amplified note contrasted with a sauternes like fruit expression. maybe not that impactful.

at some point in time quinine content became regulated and there was a maximum allowed amount enforced. an article that details measuring quinine content via the alkaloid content is detailed in amerine's "technology of winemaking" where there is a dubonnet byrrh comparative analysis. i wonder if this regulation drastically influenced any of the products. (i also wonder if the technique could create an IBU style measure of bitterness that could be used to perfect aroma extraction techniques which try to limit bitterness)

after seeing the 1962 and 1972 consumer's union guide to wine & spirits and the differences they tell about the market place, anything based on wine before the 1970's was probably a pretty erratic experience.


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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To further confuse matters, David Embury describes a Lillet vermouth which he claims was a distinct product from Kina Lillet, and apparently, the word "kina" was dropped long ago, not in 1980.

My own favorite French vermouth today is Lillet (pronounced lee'lay) made by Lillet Freres of Podensac, France. Do not confuse it with the Lillet aperitif made by the same company and originally sold under the name of Kina Lillet.

That was from the introductory section on aperitif wines. Later in the book, under Short Drinks, he has an entry for Kina Lillet drinks:

In commenting on Lillet vermouth, I warned not to confuse this brand of vermouth with the aperitif wine, originally known as Kina Lillet but now called simply Lillet. If, by accident, you get a bottle of the wine instead of the vermouth, what do you do with it? Well, here are a few of the old-time recipes using Kina Lillet. I definitely do not recommend any of them.

So what does everyone make of this? Was there yet another Lillet product--a vermouth no less--that may have been called for in certain drinks? If we are to believe that Kina Lillet never really changed, is what we are looking for to faithfully re-created old drinks something else entirely? I can't imagine Embury was completely mistaken about this, especially since he cites it as his favorite French vermouth. Surely he knew what he was drinking. Gotta love that he feels that the only way anyone would possess a bottle of Kina Lillet is "by accident."


Mike

"The mixing of whiskey, bitters, and sugar represents a turning point, as decisive for American drinking habits as the discovery of three-point perspective was for Renaissance painting." -- William Grimes

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To further confuse matters, David Embury describes a Lillet vermouth which he claims was a distinct product from Kina Lillet, and apparently, the word "kina" was dropped long ago, not in 1980.

My own favorite French vermouth today is Lillet (pronounced lee'lay) made by Lillet Freres of Podensac, France. Do not confuse it with the Lillet aperitif made by the same company and originally sold under the name of Kina Lillet.

That was from the introductory section on aperitif wines. Later in the book, under Short Drinks, he has an entry for Kina Lillet drinks:

In commenting on Lillet vermouth, I warned not to confuse this brand of vermouth with the aperitif wine, originally known as Kina Lillet but now called simply Lillet. If, by accident, you get a bottle of the wine instead of the vermouth, what do you do with it? Well, here are a few of the old-time recipes using Kina Lillet. I definitely do not recommend any of them.

So what does everyone make of this? Was there yet another Lillet product--a vermouth no less--that may have been called for in certain drinks? If we are to believe that Kina Lillet never really changed, is what we are looking for to faithfully re-created old drinks something else entirely? I can't imagine Embury was completely mistaken about this, especially since he cites it as his favorite French vermouth. Surely he knew what he was drinking. Gotta love that he feels that the only way anyone would possess a bottle of Kina Lillet is "by accident."

Well, if you go back to the Lillet timeline:

1909 Two products available in Europe, Kina Lillet and Sauternes Lillet

1920 "Lillet Dry" created and introduced in England, "to suit English tastes, especially when mixed with gin."

1962 Lillet Rouge created

1985-86 Lillet modernized its manufacturing facilities and Lillet Blanc reformulated, "...fresher, fruitier, less syrupy, less bitter..."

My guess would be that Mr. Embury was referring to the "Lillet Dry" created some time around 1920.

My other guess would be that the modern Lillet Blanc is an off shoot of the "Lillet Dry" product, rather than the earlier Kina Lillet product. Also, the elusive Jean de Lillet is likely the modern version of "Sauternes Lillet".

As to what happened to Kina Lillet, (or "Lillet Export Double Quinine" for that matter,) your guess is as good as mine. It appears that branch of the Lillet family died out some time after Mr. Embury's writing.


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Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Well, if you go back to the Lillet timeline:
1909 Two products available in Europe, Kina Lillet and Sauternes Lillet

1920 "Lillet Dry" created and introduced in England, "to suit English tastes, especially when mixed with gin."

1962 Lillet Rouge created

1985-86 Lillet modernized its manufacturing facilities and Lillet Blanc reformulated, "...fresher, fruitier, less syrupy, less bitter..."

My guess would be that Mr. Embury was referring to the "Lillet Dry" created some time around 1920.

My other guess would be that the modern Lillet Blanc is an off shoot of the "Lillet Dry" product, rather than the earlier Kina Lillet product. Also, the elusive Jean de Lillet is likely the modern version of "Sauternes Lillet".

As to what happened to Kina Lillet, (or "Lillet Export Double Quinine" for that matter,) your guess is as good as mine. It appears that branch of the Lillet family died out some time after Mr. Embury's writing.

You're probably right about the Lillet Dry. That has to be what Embury was drinking. Too bad it's no longer around. It would be fascinating to find out why he prized it so highly. And I wonder who is correct regarding Lillet Blanc--the Master Blender or the Lillet timeline.


Mike

"The mixing of whiskey, bitters, and sugar represents a turning point, as decisive for American drinking habits as the discovery of three-point perspective was for Renaissance painting." -- William Grimes

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I am wondering what the conclusion was regarding the Lillet composition and speculation about changes in formulation. The official line from Lillet is still that, even though "Kina" was dropped from its name a while back, the product did not change and still has the same quinine content.

Is the summary below from Robert Hess' website close to the now accepted version of events?

Created in the late 1800s in Podensac, France, this aromatized wine is based on a proprietary recipe which uses an assortment of fruits (including bitter and sweet orange peels) along with chinchona bark (which contains quinine). Originally the product was called “Kina Lillet”, but the “Kina” was dropped sometime in the 1960’s to shorten the name to just “Lillet”. Some have said that the quinine level was also reduced (either then, or in 1986 when the recipe was “reformulated”) in order to make it less bitter. This is an unfortunate misconception, the quinine level in Lillet is the same as it has always been. The reformulation in 1986 was simply an adjustment to increase consistency from batch to batch.

Lillet comes in both a white (blanc) and red (rouge) version. The wine used is either a white or red Bordeaux, and both versions use the same flavorings. On the other hand, vermouth uses white wine for both its red and white versions. In this case, the difference is provided by varying the herbs.

Note that this does not mean that certain drinks originally calling for Lillet cannot be improved by other products - personally, I prefer Cocchi Americano in the Corpse Reviver No. 2 for example. I would just be interested to hear if any new information surfaced on this topic that was the subject of much discussion in the past on eGullet.

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To the best of my knowledge, the timeline from the lillet website is accurate:

1872 Company founded

1887 Lillet formula created

1895 Lillet launched in Bordeaux

1895 In the US and West Indies "Lillet Export Double Quinine" marketed as a tonic wine

1909 Two products available in Europe, Kina Lillet and Sauternes Lillet

1920 "Lillet Dry" created and introduced in England, "to suit English tastes, especially when mixed with gin."

1962 Lillet Rouge created

1985-86 Lillet modernized its manufacturing facilities and Lillet Blanc reformulated, "...fresher, fruitier, less syrupy, less bitter...

The Lillet company has no information or will not talk about the "LIllet Export Double Quinine", Kina Lillet or any other product, maintaining Lillet Blanc is the only white lillet they have produced. They also maintain no other bittering agent than Quinine has ever been used in their products, making Cocchi Americano's gentian-herb flavors a bit far afield from the much more tame Lillet.

Others have tasted white lillet samples vintage pre-1985 and said they were nearly identical to modern Lillet Blanc.

However, if you read David Embury (circa 1948), he talks about two versions of white Lillet being available in the US, "Kina Lillet" and "Lillet Vermouth", and espouses only using "Lillet Vermouth" for cocktails, as the other is too bitter and syrupy.

My guess is some time between 1948 and 1986 the more bitter and syrupy version of lillet was discontinued and the company standardized on the Lillet Dry it had been marketing in England.

Note, the company does still occasionally produce the delicious vintage dated Reserve Jean de Lillet, though to me, that product is no more perceptibly bitter than Lillet Blanc. I believe this product is the descendent of the 'Sauterne Lillet' mentioned in the timeline.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Thanks Erik. It's interesting that Harry Craddock calls for the (now defunct, more "bitter and syrupy") Kina Lillet, although Lillet Dry was already available at the time the Savoy Cocktail book was published, when David Embury's specifies "Lillet Vermouth" that we understand as being the "Lillet Dry" product, the predecessor of the current Lillet Blanc product (assuming I got this right...).

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Check Brinza's comment above.

Another source of information I've found interesting is this seemingly well researched article originally from 'Flavors of France':

Lillet: the classic Bordelais aperitif

In 1985, Bruno Borie, owner of Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou, bought the business from the Lillet family [snip]

The first thing Borie did was relook at the recipe of Lillet Blanc and make it fruitier, lighter, less sugary but also less bitter, as he reduced the levels of quinine – to achieve the balance of sweetness and sourness that it has today. A Reserve Jean de Lillet Blanc was also created, that more closely resembles the original recipe, tasting somewhere between a Sauternes and today’s Lillet aperitif. With the new recipe, he relaunched the drink. At the time, sales were 24,000 in France, but when he sold it in 2008 (to the Ricard family of Pernod-Ricard), sales had reached 400,000 in France, with another 400,000 overseas.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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It looks like there is an entire book devoted to Lillet that covers the 1862-1985 timeframe (in French). According to the book, Kina-Lillet was originally created under the name "Amer-Kina". The book describes how the formula was adapted to the taste of the public in the early 1900s ("originally it was more bitter, but ladies would not drink it"), with an adjustment to its quinine content and resulting bitterness. It later mentions that two different formulas were available at some point, the "dry export" (English formula) and an "extra-dry" version that is more recent. Somewhere else it mentions that both the original formula (aperitif classique) and the English formula (Lillet goût anglais) were both served at the Cafe de la Paix in Paris in 1938 depending on the clientele. Unfortunately only a few pages are available online.

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Going through the book excerpts again and it mentions that in 1956 the following products were available: "Kina-Lillet Apéritif", "Français", and "Dry Export". Lillet "3 ans de vieillissement" (Lillet vieux) is mentioned later on, an aged product similar to Jean de Lillet; it is said to have been available at least since 1963 and is described as Lillet "goût français" from a very good vintage.

Maybe "Lillet vermouth" mentioned by Embury is actually "Lillet français" rather than the "dry export" product...?


Edited by FrogPrincesse (log)

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I think that I will have to get the book eventually, but in the meantime through various ruses I found additional information that is not normally visible in the preview pages... quite interesting!

Le Lillet goût anglais commercialisé en Angleterre diffère du produit consommé en France. « Nous avons besoin en France que le kina ait un peu plus de substance et soit un peu plus sucré pour pouvoir supporter hélas les mélanges que les consommateurs exigent pour consommer notre produit car il est bien évident qu’un gourmet ne mélange jamais notre Kina a quoi que ce soit ; en Angleterre il paraît que notre Kina se boit avec du gin comme cocktail. »
English-style Lillet ("goût anglais") marketed in England differs from the product consumed in France. « In France we need the kina to have a little more substance and to be a little sweeter in order to withstand the mixtures that consumers unfortunately require to consume our product, because it is quite obvious that a gourmet would never blend our Kina with anything; in England we are told that our Kina is drunk with gin as a cocktail. »

Lillet, 1862-1985: Le pari d'une entreprise girondine by Olivier Londeix

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All this talk about Lillet made me crave a White Negroni. Usually I have it on the rocks, but tonight I was looking at the recipe in PDT and they serve it up, so I decided to try that for a change.

Regarding ratios, PDT does 2 oz Plymouth gin, 1 oz Lillet, 0.75 oz Suze. There is a little more gin than the recipe I am used to, and it feels more martini-like. Very nice, and the color is simply striking.

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In the past I tried White Negronis with various gins including Junipero for an extra kick, Beefeater or Plymouth. They each have their merits. Junipero is probably a little over the top considering that there is already a lot going on in that drink; nothing too subtle but that can be fun sometimes too.

This is a good time to mention the White Negroni flights that I have done a while back with some friends. After falling in love with Cocchi Americano in a Corpse Reviver No. 2, we decided to compare Lillet and Cocchi head-to-head in a White Negroni. The ratios were the same for both versions: 1.5 oz gin, 1 oz Lillet/Cocchi, 0.75 oz Suze, lemon peel (a grapefruit twist works well too). I also included a third version, the White Negroni from Dutch Kills with Dolin blanc. This one has slightly different ratios: 1.5 gin, 0.75 oz Dolin blanc, 0.75 oz Suze.

I wanted a fairly neutral gin so I went with Beefeater. The same flight was repeated at a later date with Plymouth to confirm the conclusions. We did the tasting blinded first, and then unblinded.

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The conclusion was not what I expected. The clear winner was the Lillet version, which was also the most balanced. It starts with some spice/funk from the Suze combined with aromas that are almost floral, syrup/honey and citrus from the Lillet but nothing overwhelmingly sweet, and then the bitter finish, with what I call the "suck on a tree branch" flavor from the Suze (which I love).

The Cocchi version is more bitter and has less citrus. It is not bad but not as interesting as the Lillet version.

The Dutch Kills version has a split personality and does not quite know what it wants to be; it oscillates brutaly from intensely bitter to sweet and citrusy, with nothing in the middle. I thought that it was fun but nobody else cared for it.

For the sake of completeness, I should note that last year I also tried a White Negroni with Bonal (1.5/1/0.75 ratio) and this was by far my least favorite, it did not work at all.

Given the fact that this cocktail was created with Lillet, the conclusion is quite logical. Clearly, cocktails designed recently with the modern Lillet do not work as well with Cocchi. More experimenting will be in order with the new Suze formula!


Edited by FrogPrincesse (log)

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