Cultural Imperialism

In Paris, Harry's Bar has provided expatriates like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway a place to sip martinis and manhattans and sidecars since 1911. The Bloody Mary, originally called the Bucket of Blood, was reputedly invented there. Yet while the French have happily adopted so many of our customs that an outraged minister of culture was moved to invent the term "cultural imperialism," cocktails are not a big item for the French. Knowing just how much time, tradition and sheer artistry goes into producing, say, a bottle of first-rate cognac, the French recoil at the thought of defiling such a liquid with Coca-Cola or crème de menthe. I am pondering this conundrum at the handsome little bar of Cafe Perrier (4304 Westheimer, 713-355-4455). When I bring up the subject with Frédéric Perrier, chef and owner, he declares I must try his Marc-a-Rita. Apparently, this Frenchman has adapted to Houston's taste for the tequila cocktail. "Everybody makes margaritas in this town," I observe.

"No, no," Perrier corrects me. "It is a Marc-a-Rita, with Marc de Bourgogne." Marc is a sort of peasant brandy, made from the leavings of the wine pressing operation, similar to grappa. "I am the only one in Houston to have Marc de Bourgogne at the bar," Perrier claims. I order le cocktail and am delighted with the creation. Served in a salt-rimmed martini glass, it is an opaque, pale yellow. A dry sackiness pervades the taste -- a result of the 110-proof Marc -- and it is much better than any commercial margarita.

Frédéric Perrier's Marc-a-Rita:

1.5 ounces of Nuits St.
Georges Marc de Bourgogne
Quarter-ounce Tortilla
Gold tequila liqueur
1 ounce sweet-and-sour mix
Juice of one lime

Shake with ice, then strain into a salt-rimmed martini glass. Owing to the proof of the Marc, if having two, consider a designated driver. If having more, arrange for a pair of designated stretcher-bearers.


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