As some of you know, I spent much of the last week traveling to Southern Indiana to visit my family. My mother was recently hospitalized with an illness, and after her release I made plans to see her. Jen was unable to get away from work, so she was home alone with the cats. Without me around to fix our daily quaffs, she was on her own. So one evening, she got creative. She started with the basic Wondrich formula that I’ve described here, of 2 oz. spirit, 1 oz. fortified wine, 1 tsp. liqueur, and 2 dashes of bitters.
In thinking this through, she decided to play with one of our favorite drinks, the Aviation. This pre-Prohibition classic calls for gin, lemon juice, maraschino liqueur, and crème de violette. Jen decided to keep the gin and crème de violette. She provided the lemon notes with Fee’s Lemon Bitters and skipped the maraschino. For the fortified wine, she chose Lillet Blanc, which always pairs up nicely with gin.
Her initial attempt was unsuccessful. Why? She misread the recipe and used a tablespoon of crème de violette. Hey, we’ve all done it. But she tried again and met with success. For her first iteration, she used Right Gin, a relatively new product from Sweden. Right is a little sweeter than a traditional London Dry variety and less juniper-forward, and it includes black pepper among its blend of botanicals. The pepper, though noticeable, is subtle, and the gin is smooth and citrusy. Although I never tried the Aviatrix iteration she made with Right, I’m sure it was a good choice.
Her next version, however, was better, she later told me. For in iteration 2, she used the gin-of-the-moment, Beefeater 24. (Admit it, you knew where this was going.) Right and B24 are similar in that they both downplay juniper in favor of other botanicals, but their flavor profiles are actually pretty far apart. Right is softer and highlights the citrus and pepper, with little else shining through, whereas B24 is more complex and brings its entire botanical range to the fore. Nothing really dominates the flavor of the B24; the flavors are very well balanced, making B24 a more versatile gin, in my opinion.
As for the cocktail… well, think about it. Gin, Lillet, a splash of crème de violette, and lemon bitters. If you’re saying to yourself, “Sounds delicate,” well, you’d be right. It’s a subtle drink, especially with a restrained gin such as the B24. I actually suspect it might be a little better with the original Beefeater, and that’s certainly worth trying. Regardless, if you mix it with a modern gin like B24, Right, or Aviation, you’ll find a nice, delicate drink in which the flavors complement each other.
photo by Jennifer (Mrs. Bitters) Hess
- 2 oz. gin
- 1 oz. Lillet Blanc
- 1 tsp. crème de violette
- 2 dashes lemon bitters
- Lemon twist, for garnish
Stir over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add garnish.
Jen did submit this recipe into the Mixoloseum chat room on Thursday, during the Beefeater-sponsored Thursday Drink Night. It doesn’t appear to have made much of a splash, and I’m not sure why. I was, of course, live at TDN this time, at Quarter Bar in Brooklyn, but I was having trouble keeping a constant WiFi connection, so I missed much of the early part of the chat. I didn’t get to see much of the discussion of Jen’s drink, if there was any. Also, her drink never made its way to me that night for a taste. There was something that might have been her drink, but I couldn’t taste any violette in it, so I wasn’t sure. So I’m really not sure how anyone reacted to it. I, however, love it, so nyeah.