Sunday, April 27, 2014

Crème de Violette Cocktails for Your Springtime Party

The Blue Moon Cocktail will brighten up your cocktail party with its sweet and sour combination of lemon and violets. 

Finally, spring is here. Warm caresses from the sun. The dewy luminescence from springtime light. Rainbow beauty from early-riser flowers such as crocuses, hyacinths, and daffodils. Just walking to the subway brings exquisite joy. This is the time of year when our taste buds turn to floral favors. One such flavor we revere comes from violets in the form of a deep, almost impenetrable purple liqueur called crème de violette. The term crème refers to sugar, and there is plenty of that in pretty much the only crème de violette you can get stateside, Rothman & Winter, which is also made with Alpine violets and Weinbrand (German or Austrian brandy). It became available to us here soon after we started Cocktail Buzz, back in 2007, and we have been smitten with it ever since. Initially, we bought some to fulfill the old recipe for an Aviation cocktail. It’s hard to fathom how this cocktail got its name without the addition of a little crème de violette, which adds a subtle but magical pale purple–blue tint to the drink. It’s a stunner—sourness from the lemon juice, bitterness from the maraschino liqueur, and sweetness from the crème de violette. We created a variation of the Aviation we call the Kitty Hawk, named after the Wright Brothers’ site of their famous flight. The addition of a little Catdaddy moonshine adds a southern sweet-tea charm to the cocktail. On its own, one sip of crème de violette will remind you instantly of violet candies you can find at any candy counter in New York City.

A Violet Sparkler, simple and beautiful
For all of you who like to get the party started with a little bubbly, you’ll be happy to know that crème de violette mixes exceedingly well with champagne or any sparkling wine. Just a little splash (1/2 to 1 1/2 teaspoon per 3 ounces of champagne) in a flute or coupe is all you need to experience the floral aromas and tastes of a Violet Sparkler. Top with some reposado tequila and you’ve just made yourself La Violeta. Something elegant for a Cinco de Mayo cocktail party.

Cousin Barbara turned us on to the Blue Moon, a gin and lemon juice Jazz Era cocktail laced with a healthy dose of the violet liqueur. The Blue Moon glows anywhere between heliotrope and lavender depending on the gin you use (try several to see which one you like best), and is perfect for any time of year, but spring seems just about right. Perfect if you want to serve something a little boozier to your guests. Just provide a few nibbles to keep the partiers satisfied and sober.

Blue Moon
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce crème de violette
1/2 ounce lemon juice
lemon twist, as garnish

Shake in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass or coupe. Add garnish.

Another cocktail resplendent with a smoky gray hue was created a few years back, when Phil Ward was behind the stick at Death & Co. Paul and his friend Shelley were lucky enough to have Phil make one up on the spot while we were talking about a cocktail Paul had made for his mom that featured scotch and crème de violette. Phil grabbed a bottle of this Compass Box blended whisky called Asyla, gave it a deep sniff, then immediately grabbed a bottle of crème de violette, gave that a quick sniff, then put both bottles near his nose and gave both a deep inhale. The first thing he grabbed was Lillet blanc. The clincher was absinthe, but just a little. The verdict, well, neither Shelley or Paul can recall the exact details, but rest assured, they liked the results. Each ingredient working to enhance the others. Try it up, as Phil intended, but feel free to have it on the rocks, or with a splash of soda.

Smoke and Violets
(created by Phil Ward)

2 ounces Asyla Compass Box scotch whisky
1 ounce Lillet blanc
1/2 ounce crème de violette
2–3 dashes absinthe
lemon twist, as garnish

Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass or coupe. Add garnish.

For after dinner, you may want a Marianne at Midnight, the drink referred to above that Paul created for his mother. We’ve altered our recipe a little, adding a half ounce less crème de violette, to this scotch and Tuaca sipper.

If you’d like to harvest the essence of crème de violette and create a bitters, all you need to do is find some gentian (a bitter root), cinnamon bark, and grapefruit peel. Letting these age a few days in an ounce and a half ounces crème de violette is all you need to do. Then get creative and come up with your very own cocktail.

Violet Bitters
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

1 1/2 ounces crème de violette
1/4 teaspoon gentian
piece of cinnamon bark
piece of grapefruit peel

Mix together ingredients and let sit for a few days. Strain into a small bottle or dropper.

We don’t know which is prettier: the heliotrope glow of a Blue Moon (left) or the bubbly lavender of a Violet Sparkler? We think you should make both and decide for yourself.

Well, there you have it all. A crème de violette cocktail for any time of the day or evening. Start with a Violet Sparkler and end with one of the many drinks we love and have shared with you. Or create your own using your new homemade violet bitters. Happy spring. Embrace renewal.

photo © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz