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Orphan Bottles Part II: Creme de Violette

It's happened to all of us at one time or another. I'll find a recipe I love, usually in preparation for a holiday or an occasion, buy the requisite bottles, and batch the drink. Weeks go by and the whiskey gets sipped on and the fresh ingredients go into my ever-questionable culinary experiments, but the modifiers remain. Those orphaned bottles, that are so good in specific cocktails, end up dusty and forgotten on my back bar.

Luckily for you (and me), I'm going to attempt to create a compendium of lesser known cocktails that use up some of these ingredients. Usually these liqueurs are relegated to their seasonality, but I'll try to shake that up a bit too.

Contrary to popular belief, the word creme in Creme de Violette (or cacao/menthe) does not apply to any addition of dairy products. Creme is an indicator of sugar content - as the sugar gives the liqueur a rich, cream-like mouthfeel. Our friend Violette came into fashion in the mid 1800's and bowed out of common usage in the 1960's when there was a drop in supply in the United States. She is, at best, delicately floral and (understandably) sweet, and you probably picked up a bottle for the Aviations you absolutely had to make for your friends some months ago (or in my case, because I was convinced that I could do more with that beautiful purple hued liqueur.. a few years ago).


The Important Stuff

  1. Dilution. Always shake(or stir) your cocktails! Dilution is essential. Imagine the difference between lemon juice and lemonade. Sugar is only half the battle when it comes to a well balanced cocktail. The batched drinks call for the inclusion of water as a way to keep you from having to shake 60 plus ounces of liquor.

  2. Measurements. Ounces are the go-to measures for American bartenders. When it comes to making single cocktails, do yourself a favor and invest the $15 or so that it takes to get a multimeasured jigger. It will save you time and once you get handy with it, it looks pretty cool to play with. I recommend this, this or this one. When it comes to batched drinks, aim for your nearest liquid measuring cup. OXO has a great one, but they all serve the same function as the one your mother gave you when you moved into your first apartment.

  3. Ingredients. It's well worth your time to juice fresh. Once you get handy with a juicer, it'll take about 10 minutes of added effort to make your batch, but it'll make all the difference in terms of quality. Get yourself this hand juicer at any grocery store and have at it.

  4. Garnishing. Get down with the garnish. My channel knife took the center stage for this round of drinks. All I wanted to do was play with strings of lemon zest, but that isn't the only possibility. If you have violets growing in the shade of your backyard, pull some up and let the blooms do the talking.


Hush and Wonder

This Daiquiri riff (created by the bartenders at The Violet Hour, Chicago) is a nice nod to what violette can do when it's sitting far in the background. For your rum, choose something that has been aged and has a gentler flavor profile. A funky Jamaican rum will wipe the violette out completely.

1 dash Grapefruit Bitters

.25oz Creme de Violette

.75oz Lime Juice

2oz Aged Rum

Wash the glass with the Violette and set aside. Shake the other ingredients and double strain into the coupe.

Batch It

Makes 1/2 Gallon

10.75oz Simple Syrup

10.75oz Lime Juice

29oz Aged Rum

13oz Water

.5oz Grapefruit Bitters

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher or bottle and let chill.

There are two ways to tackle the violette wash. One is to pre-wash each cocktail glass and have them set up and ready to be poured into. The second one is a bit more elegant, but does require an $8 commitment.

Among the toys that bartenders have appropriated, the atomizer is one of the least expensive, and has the most useful application. Buy one of these tiny squirt bottles and fill it with violette to be gently misted over the glass before you pour the drink. Not only do they save you product (the mist requires about 1/10 the amount of liquid that the traditional wash does), but it allows your guests to feel like they're part of the action.

You have officially created an immersive experience in your own living room. And it'll translate for you too. Guaranteed you'll be thinking of all sorts of things you can atomize once you have five more empty atomizers to play with. Wash the glass, spritz something aromatic on top of your cocktails, go wild.


Water Lily

To be completely honest, I thought I would like this cocktail the least. It uses a fair amount of violette, and I figured the flavor would be overpowering and sickly sweet. It is, to be fair, a sweeter cocktail. However, somehow the balance of sugar and floral notes to citrus is.. perfect. I wouldn't expect anything less from the actual geniuses at PDT, and I've thus been reminded to never doubt them.

.75oz Lemon Juice

.75oz Triple Sec

.75oz Creme de Violette

.75oz Gin

Shake all ingredients & double strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon zest *Technically the recipe calls for an orange zest, but I took some artistic license (read: I forgot to buy oranges)

Batch It

Makes 1/2 Gallon

17oz Lemon Juice

17oz Triple Sec

17oz Creme de Violette

17oz Gin

17oz Water

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher or bottle and let chill thoroughly.


Champagne Cocktail

On my most recent trip to New Orleans, I drank champagne cocktails everywhere I went (the best being at the ever impressive Bouligny Tavern). In light of my apparent obsession, I decided to make a lighter version of the classic.

2 dashes Lemon bitters (or orange, if that's what you have on hand)

.5oz Creme de Violette

.5oz Botanical Gin (I used Prairie Organic)

Dry Sparkling Wine (Californian or French, ideally, and the drier the better)

Place the cube in your champagne flute and soak it with the bitters. Add the liquor/liqueur and then top with the sparkling wine. Dress the cocktail with a lemon zest.

Batch It

Honestly, there's no great way to make this drink in batched form. Your best bet is to prep a bunch of them about 10-15 minutes before guests arrive. Set up the glasses and soak the cubes, then add the liquor and liqueur. Pour the sparkling as close to the start time for your party as humanly possible. This is a great aperitif, and a lovely way to start any gathering (even if it's a gathering of one).


Technique Notes

Double Strain: Put your hawthorne strainer in the tin as usual, but run the liquid through a small fine mesh strainer as well. This keeps small slivers of ice, fresh ingredients such as mint, etc from getting into the drink.

Simple Syrup: Easy peasy. Equal parts sugar and water, dissolved.

Wash: Pour the selected liquid directly into the glass in which you'll be serving the drink. Roll the glass around, coating the sides of it with the liquid and then discard the rest. This will give aromatics to the drink and allow for a little bit of flavor to come through without it being too overwhelming.


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