Wow! There is just nothing like an obsession to derail a perfectly normal day (week, month etc.). For the last month or so, my curiosity got the best of me. I just hate it when I can’t get my mind off of something. It’s like a song that is stuck in your head and won’t go away. What the heck is Lillet and why couldn’t I find someone who had heard of it?
Awhile back, I received a request for a list of gluten free cocktails for my “grown up” gluten free friends. There are quite a few sites out there dedicated to listing gluten free alcoholic beverages. But what got my attention was something called “Lillet Sin.” It was advertised as a refreshing alcoholic drink made with a French aperitif, ginger, mint, lime and tonic water.
I actually stumbled upon a website (not gluten free) called http://www.foodonthebrain.net/ (apparently in Washington state) and they had a post about this cocktail. It got my attention because I had never heard of Lillet and it looked like a truly refreshing summer drink. So, I decided to find out if it was gluten free and would post it at the request of said friends as something new and intriguing.
I had no idea that was going to be so much work! Wouldn’t you know that Lillet has quite a history, yet I still couldn’t find anyone who knew what it was! I actually wrote their site, http://www.lillet.com/, IN FRENCH (okay, I used an on-line translator program) to ask them if it was gluten free and how to properly pronounce it. First, it’s pronounced “Lee-lay.” Don’t say it wrong or you’ll be asking for something else in French that isn’t necessarily appropriate.
Second, it IS gluten free (confirmed by their staff). It’s a secret blend of French wines, herbs and fruit liquors (all gf) and quinine. Quinine is a bitter tree bark used in tonic waters (and in a drug form to cure malaria, apparently). Some people can’t tolerate quinine, so please keep that in mind.
Lillet, made in the south of France, has been around since 1872 and is apparently very popular in Europe. It recently made an appearance in the James Bond movie, “Casino Royal” when 007 ordered a “Vesper Martini with Lillet” at the bar in the casino. He wasn’t necessarily trying to start a trend. That was actually written into the 1954 Ian Flemming novel! I also received an education on martini shakers and what the heck a “muddler” is, but I will have to save that for some other time. They had both at the “Bev-Mo” where I finally found Lillet locally.
I could go on and on about everything I learned, but I’ll skip to the end. This is one of THE BEST cocktails I have ever had and it did not disappoint. If you go to the Lillet site, they graciously offer up many other recipes, including the Vesper Martini. Below is my version of the Lillet Sin. I basically doubled the recipe. Even doubled, it only makes two or three drinks. Once you try this, you might consider making a larger batch.
A special “thank you” to my great friends today who graciously allowed me to test out my new cocktail on them as we spent the entire day by the pool sipping Lillet Sin. Of course, they have their own herb garden, complete with fresh mint leaves (the only way to go here) which made the concoction extra special.
Before I list the recipe, a word or two about “simple syrup.” Okay. So, not so simple. It is absolutely necessary for this drink. However, if you get it wrong, the drink tastes quite bitter or ridiculously sweet. I hadn’t used simple syrup before, so I did some research. Everyone seems to have a different take on it. “It’s just sugar water,” they say. Yes, not so much.
What I found is that the best way to make it is 1 part water to 2 parts granulated sugar. (Although, I hear powdered sugar works too.) You can’t just mix sugar and water (a mistake I made earlier in the week). You have to boil it into a syrup and let it cool. But not too cool or you end up with rock candy. I made quite a few attempts at this before I got it right.
Simple Syrup: Boil 1 cup of water. Add in 2 cups of sugar. Stir over medium/high heat until it begins to emulsify into a syrup (about 5 minutes). It’s done when it runs off the spoon in a similar manner to the maple syrup would do. Poor into a heat resistant cup and let it cool to room temperature (about 5 minutes).
This recipe serves 2 and takes about 20 minutes to prepare and involves the use of a martini shaker and a muddler (the thing that muddles the mint and ginger – like in that Mojito commercial).
Adapted from the “Lillet Site” and the “Food on the Brain” site:
- 4 oz Lillet Blanc
- 8 mint leaves
- 2 lime wedges
- 4 slices of fresh ginger
- 2 tsp simple syrup
- crushed ice
- tonic water or Perrier
- slice of lime for garnish
- extra mint leaves for garnish
- Muddle the mint, ginger and lime in a cocktail shaker or glass.
- Add the Lillet, 1/3 cup crushed ice and simple syrup. Stir well.
- Fill wine glass with ice (I used crushed ice).
- Strain the mixture into the waiting wine glass.
- Top with tonic water or Perrier.
- Add the lime slice and mint leaf for garnish.
Enjoy this refreshing drink somewhere warm while relaxing- maybe at a lake house with a big front porch swing, and lightening bugs.