I really enjoy entertaining at home. When I go out, if the service is lacking or the product, if I don’t like the vibe/crowd or even feel trepidation heading out late at night, it just doesn’t seem worth it. Recently, I nudged a friend of mine at a happy hour, nodding at our Kir Royales: “Y’know, I can make these at home. Just like this.”
The French Merlet family started producing fine eaux de vie in 1850, many of which were purchased by the most luxurious cognac houses you can think of. 130 years later, the realities of economics and family farming nudged the Merlets into planting other luscious fruits for liqueurs. Now, they’re happily doing it all! I was happy to be hosted to experience it.
Creme de Fraises des Bois – is a wild strawberry liqueur made from two special varieties. It has a deep, bright ruby color. I noticed a strawberry jam nose. Flavor-wise, I tasted dark dried fruit, opening to wild strawberry tang. It’s sweet, but not cloying: there’s a good acid balance. They say this:
Ruby colour with roasted notes and bronze tinges. Rich strawberry coulis aromas with a hint of watermelon and mint. Lively, fruity and sweet full-bodied palate, with a long, tangy strawberry jam and honey finish.
It’s an easy and lovely presentation on the rocks, but you can do it with shaved ice, soda, cream soda, chocolate soda, white wine, Champagne.
Creme de Melon – is one of their newest offerings. This cantaloupe liqueur has a sheer light gold color. It has a powerful cut fresh ripe melon nose, along with florals. Flavor-wise, I tasted sweet, very ripe melon, with acid balance and tang. They say about it:
A subtle and delicate nose, that will remind you of a freshly cut melon on your summer table, with a good rosé on the side. A complex blend of green tea, mango and very ripe Muscat. On the palate, the freshness of the melon is stunning, with a strikingly lengthy finish.
Along with classic rocks/white wine/Champagne options, you could mix it with well-chilled or even frozen green tea, add a splash of pineapple juice. I garnished it with pineapple mint from my garden.
Creme de Peche de Vigne – is vineyard peach liqueur. It’s made from a special variety of peach — a small blush peach with red and white flesh — that was once grown along vineyards. How’s that for an authentically French product? I detected a freshly baked peach pie nose with a touch of cinnamon. Flavor-wise, it’s sweet, but in a ripe fruit way. It’s not cloying. A touch of acid keeps the fresh fruit aspect, rather than being candyish. It’s smooth. They say:
Bright golden amber colour. Incredibly vibrant and three-dimensional peach and honey aromas with a rich, silky, sweet full-body and a seemingly endless and evolving Technicolor peach finish.
I highly recommend serving this as an affordable and luscious alternative to Sauternes. Pair it with foie gras, dessert, rich cheeses.
Creme de Cassis de Saintonge – is a geographically controlled variety of Noir de Bourgogne blackcurrant. This is what you use for a truly memorable Kir Royale! All you need is some Champagne to top off an ounce of it. I’m bringing this to a pool party for my birthday: easy and memorable. There is a dried fruit and tangy nose. The liqueur has a rich consistency. Flavor-wise, I noticed dried fruit with natural sweetness. It’s well balanced. This is what they say about it:
An opaque purple colour, almost black, paints the glass. Very intense nose of ripe cassis. Bold spices, mint, tobacco and pepper notes. Supple, lightly syrupy palate and an explosively tangy and pure cassis fruit finish that leaves a lasting, delicious impression.
Besides making Kir Royales, try it for creating your own version of the trendy new whiskey cocktails.
Creme de Mure Sauvage – is a wild blackberry liqueur. This is made from two complimentary varieties with a small amount of red berries for brightness. The nose is fresh blackberry juice. The liqueur has a rich consistency. Flavor-wise, I notice a blackberry hard candy flavor with balancing acid. It’s not cloyingly sweet. This is what they say about it:
Garnet colour. Rich blackberry compote, custard, and crushed dried violet aromas. Soft, rich and silky fruity palate and a long, honeyed berry, elderflower and soft spice finish.
This is the perfect — and one of the only perfect things — to pair with dark chocolates.
Eau de Vigne – is a blend of unaged eaux de vie. A wise and so sophisticated friend of mine who has since departed this earth, was big on ending a gourmet dinner with a glass of eau de vie. It’s an elegant tradition we need to bring back! Contrary to what you might expect, just because it’s uncolored, doesn’t mean it’s unflavored. The nose for me was honey, hay, moss, grape must. It has very interesting flavors: not a sharp alcohol burn at all, but rather smooth. Flavor-wise, I noticed moss and grape must. This is what they say:
Nose: Delicate, floral (violet, white flowers) and fruity (Mirabelle, pear).
Palate: Round, light, with a fine length. No sweetness, well-balanced with prevailing flavours of fruit.
It’s a very interesting addition to cocktails. I would analogize it to a vintage perfume fixative, such as myrrh, ambergris, musk: it brings out other flavors and gives depth. I made a version of their recipe for Saint Sauvant Sling — it was refreshing and subtly flavored.