This one might take a little effort, but if it sounds intriguing to you, it's more than worth it. If you've ever loved the aroma and flavor of violets ... if you ever enjoyed C. Howard's Scented Gum or Violet Candies, imagine what real violets and not artificially violet-flavored things might taste like.
I first tried this at Dr. Cocktail's place, and thought it was incredible. "I need to be able to make these all the time," I thought. Unfortunately, I couldn't; the primary flavoring ingredient is no longer made (which is not atypical of drinks from Doc's bar). The drink called for gin, a touch of lemon juice, and a violet-flavored liqueur called Crème Yvette. Crème Yvette used to be made by Charles Jacquin et Cie (the people who make Chambord), but has been defunct for years; Doc gets his batch from someone who knew how Jacquin made it, and now makes his own for himself and his friends. Sigh ... what to do?
Fortunately, there's a very similar liqueur still made in France called Crème de Violette -- not quite the proprietary formula of Crème Yvette, but close enough. It's made by Benoit-Serres in Villefrance-de-Lauragais, southeast of Toulouse in the south of France. They don't seem to export (bad news), but there is a great online mail-order source (good news!).
Renowned London chef Sally Clarke has a shop next to her restaurant which sells Benoit-Serres' "Liqueur de la Violette", and it's also available online. Last time I bought some it ran £14.99 for a 375ml bottle, which isn't all that expensive until you take shipping into account; that'll run you a little over £12, so it's be more economical to get two bottles (go in with somebody). You only use a tablespoon of this elixir per drink, so you'll get a little more than 23 cocktails out of this little bottle (less if you use greater amounts in other drinks). They're extraordinarily nice people; if your email is from Sarah at the shop, tell her I sent you and that I'm enjoying my Liqueur de Violette very much.
This is an absolutely exquisite cocktail.
2 ounces ginIncidentally, I'd love to eat at Sally Clarke's. It's sort of the Chez Panisse of Britain, as she's very inspired by the cuisine of Alice Waters (who wrote the introduction to Sally's new book). Yes, there is indeed good food in London.
1/2 ounce Crème de Violette
1/4 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice, strained
Shake or stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass;
garnish with a twist of lemon.
Not long after falling in love with this drink I had a great idea for a better garnish. When they're in season, impale three big fat blueberries on a cocktail pick and rest the pick on the side of the glass. If they're not in season, a nice curly lemon twist will still do just fine.
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Chuck Taggart email chef (at) gumbopages (dot) com