Category Archives: Fortified Wines

Fortified Wines

Vintage Cocktails #66: The Twentieth Century Cocktail

First appearing in the Cafe Royal Bar Book (1937) this next cocktail was created as a tribute to the most famous passenger train in the world, the 20th Century Limited. Traveling between Grand Central Station New York and LaSalle Street Station Chicago, this luxury train was the epitome of class and comfort. In 1938, industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss was commissioned by the New York Central to design streamlined train sets in Art Deco style, with the locomotive and passenger cars rendered in blues and grays. This new design eventually became one of the most famous passenger train designs in history.

So to go along with a lavish and comfortable train ride, we need a cocktail to match, and this one is right on the money. At first glance, a simple derivation of the Corpse Reviver #2, this cocktail is liquid delight. Bright citrus flavors pair well with the gin, while the lillet and cacao dance around in the background. You should really give this one a try. Sadly, this cocktail appears in few other bar books and has, for the most part, been lost for all time. Cheers!

The Twentieth Century Cocktail
1 1/2 oz Gin
3/4 oz Lillet Blanc
1/2 oz Creme de Cacao
3/4 oz Lemon Juice

Lillet & Bitters

Lillet Blanc is a brand of French aperitif wine. It is a blend of 85% Bordeaux wines (Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle) and 15% macerated liqueurs, mostly citrus liqueurs from the peels of sweet oranges from Spain and Morocco and the peels of bitter green oranges from Haiti. Lillet belongs in a family of aperitif known as quinquina because of the addition of a liqueur of Chinchona bark from Peru which contains quinine. Other fortified wines in this category would be Byrrh and Dubonnet. Lillet is matured in oak casks and while it has been produced since the late 19th century, the current formulation (which contains less sugar and quinine) dates from 1986.

Normally I am not really one for drinking wines, but as I had opened the Lillet for a couple of vintage cocktails, I didn’t want it to go to waste. As it is a little on the sweet side when consumed straight, I added a generous amount of bitters. This has now become one of my favorite things to drink as an apertif before dinner. Cheers!

Lillet & Bitters
4 oz Lillet Blanc
4 dashes Orange Bitters
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
2 dashes Lemon Bitters

Vintage Cocktails #65: The Corpse Reviver #2

This cocktail is all that remains from a whole family of cocktails created with the purpose of a morning pick-me-up in mind. In the late 19th, early 20th century, it was not all that uncommon to enjoy a cocktail first thing in the morning to “revive the corpse” as it were.

While there was a whole family of these drinks, there are really only two in existence today, and only one of those is worth trying. Harry Craddock, author of The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), comments that “four of these taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again.” Now, I’m not sure that anyone needs four of these in quick succession, but it is a fantastic drink for sure, and one of my favorites. Ironically, when I was in New Orleans, a city steeped in classic cocktail culture, this was one drink that I had a difficult time finding a bartender that could make a proper one for me.

Anyways, this is an excellent cocktail to use as an introduction to the classics. It has a slightly tart, herbal flavor, with a sweetness that is at the same time dry and clean. I highly recommend that you give this one a try. Cheers!

Corpse Reviver #2
1 oz Gin
1 oz Cointreau
1 oz Lemon Juice
1 oz Lillet Blanc
1 tsp Absinthe

Vintage Cocktails #64: The Vesper

“A dry martini,” [Bond] said. “One. In a deep champagne goblet.”
“Oui, monsieur.”
“Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?”
“Certainly, monsieur.” The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
“Gosh, that’s certainly a drink,” said Leiter.
Bond laughed. “When I’m…er…concentrating,” he explained, “I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink’s my own invention. I’m going to patent it when I can think of a good name.” —Ian Fleming, (1953)

The Vesper Martini appears in the first James Bond novel, Casino Royal, and despite the fact that it is an excellent drink, never appears in another Bond novel. You will have a hard time making a true to the original Vesper, as many of the products have been changed since 1953. For example, the gin specified is Gordon’s, which in the 1980′s was reduced in proof from the traditional 94 to 80. In addition, Kina Lillet, the bitter fortified wine called for has been reformulated to contain less quinine, and therefore is missing the bitter kick that it once had.

If you are wanting to make this drink, there are several suggestions of which to take note of. Firstly, a traditional London Dry Gin of high proof such as Tanqueray is recommended. The vodka should be 100 proof as well, and of russian origin. Stolichnaya makes a 100 proof that works well. As for the Kina Lillet, one option is to add some quinine powder to the drink. The other option is to use Cocchi Americano, another fortified wine that is reportedly similar in taste to the original Kina Lillet.

One other recommendation I would take, is to half the recipe, or split it between two friends. 4 oz of 100 proof spirit is a lot for anyone to ingest at one time, and as Harry Craddock said in the Savoy Cocktail Book, a cocktail should be consumed “quickly…while it’s laughing at you”. A smaller cocktail ensures that the drink stays cold while you drink it, and perhaps is better for propriety’s sake anyways. Cheers!

The Vesper
3 oz Gin
1 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Lillet Blanc

Vintage Cocktails #63: The Liberal

I’m not sure exactly where this next cocktail received its name from, but it is delicious none the less. Coming into print in the very early 1900′s, this is a great variation on a Manhattan, packing in a little extra flavor and bitterness courtesy of some Torani Amer. The higher proof boubon also helps to keep the flavors nice and balanced. Cheers!

The Liberal
3/4 oz 120-proof Bourbon
3/4 oz Italian Vermouth
3 dashes Torani Amer
1 dash Orange Bitters