Build-A-Bar: Crème de Violete
Mmmmm. . .violets.
Hopefully you've all gone out and gathered the requisite supplies, so we can get down to the real business at hand -- booze, and how to use it. Sure, you could just drink it neat. In fact, that's the first thing I do whenever I'm trying out a new spirit or liqueur. It's the best way to figure out what it is, and to start thinking about how to use it. But as much as I enjoy a good neat spirit, it's much more fun to play around .
This week, I'd like to focus on Crème de Violette. Just as it sounds, Crème de Violette is a flowery liqueur. It's made by macerating certain varieties of violets in a neutral spirit, then adding sugar for sweetness. The result is heavily perfumed and stridently sweet, with a deep and luxurious purple hue. It's a tad musky, as well, but mostly smells and tastes like a pleasant potpourri. Don't let this liqueur's somewhat cloying personality put you off, though. Used judiciously, it is a wonderful, and surprisingly delicate, addition to a drink.
Crème de Violette has only recently become available again stateside, making its first appearance in Houston liquor stores about a year ago, as far as I'm aware. There are imitators out there, perfectly willing to dupe unwary drinkers into substitution. Don't do it. Unable to locate a bottle of the genuine article, I once purchased a syrupy jug of Parfait Amour. I brought it home and commenced making one of the worst cocktails I've ever had.
To use Crème de Violette, think of it as a sweetener. It can add interesting touches when used in place of simple syrup or other liqueurs. It benefits from plenty of balancing acidity, and should be used in small quantities, or it can be overwhelming.
Due to its floral qualities, it pairs exceptionally well with the botanical elements in gin. Almost certainly the most significant Crème de Violette cocktail, the Aviation pairs this flowery elixir with gin, lemon and maraschino liqueur. It's a bracing, refreshing cocktail, with the sweetness of the liqueurs balanced by the upfront booziness of the gin and the pucker of the lemon. It has a pleasant floral quality, like a breeze-blown scent rather than a bouquet in your face. It's also lovely to look at, with a gauzy lavender tint.
- 1.5oz Gin
- .5oz Maraschino
- Barspoon Crème de Violette (told you that barspoon would come in handy)
- .5oz Lemon Juice
Shake with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with lemon peel.
I got to thinking about how an Aviation is similar in construction to a sour, with the liqueurs playing the role of sweetener. Then, I got started thinking how a sour is very similar to a fizz, if you just add something sparkly. An Aviation, then, is a hop skip and a soda-water-jump away from being a gin fizz. Since I enjoy gilding the lily, I decided to take that notion to extremes, and turn an Aviation into a Ramos Gin Fizz. It was pretty terrific.
Kitty Hawk Fizz:
- 2oz Gin
- 1oz Crème de Violette (fat has a flavor masking effect, thus the increased proportion of CdV)
- .5oz Lemon Juice
- .5oz Lime Juice
- Barspoon Maraschino
- 1 Egg White
- 1oz Heavy Cream
Combine all ingredients and shake for one minute. Add ice and shake for an additional 11 minutes. Strain into highball or Zombie glass, and top off with soda water. Stir gently to combine.
It's not perfect, yet, but it's a good start. I'm also working on a method to reduce the shaking time, which really does make a huge difference in the drink. An undershaken Ramos Gin Fizz is a sad thing, lacking the luxurious texture of the real deal.
To speed things up, I started the process with an immersion blender, both emulsifying the ingredients and beginning the incorporation of air that gives the drink its lovely body. I've had decent luck with one minute of blending time, and three minutes of subsequent shaking, but it's still not quite as silky.
So, armed with a few recipes and some idea of what Crème de Violette is and how to use it, go forth and experiment. Mix up a few Aviations. If you feel like a workout, shake up a Kitty Hawk Fizz. See where it takes you, and feel free to leave your own ideas in the comments.
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