This week, I am doing something a little different. I will give you the recipe for a cocktail to enjoy, but St-Germain isn’t the name, it’s an ingredient. Although it has been around for a few years now, I find that most people have still never heard of it—unless you are a cocktail geek like me.
So, what is this St-Germain stuff? Magic Elixir? Nectar of the Gods? Secret potion? Actually, you might say it’s all of the above. St-Germain is a new liqueur made from fresh elderflower blossoms. The elder, or more specifically, the European Black Elder grows throughout Europe, northwest Africa and southwest Asia. From the foothills of the Alps, the spring flowers are hand-picked and brought to the distillery where a secret process is used to extract their essence. The production of the liqueur combines old world techniques and ingredients with new processes that ensure quality and consistency. Production is limited and vintage bottles are individually numbered.
The use of elderflowers is not a new concept. Elderflower cordial is actually quite easy to make and has been enjoyed by europeans for centuries. However, the cordial is often very sweet—sometimes requiring ten-to-one dilution with water or soda—and inconsistent flavor strength makes it hard to use in a drink recipe. But, now that we have St-Germain, some very exciting cocktails have appeared.
1.5 oz Grey Goose La Poire
1 oz St-Germain
top with chilled champagne
First, chill the champagne. Then, combine the pear vodka and St-Germain in a mixing glass, fill it with ice and shake to chill. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and top with cold champagne. Garnish with an orchid flower.
Ok, so the orchid flower is a little over the top, but this isn’t my recipe! This drink actually comes from the W Hotel in Minneapolis. It’s a variation of the St-Germain Champagne Cocktail listed on the bottle. If you don’t want to buy a bottle of St-Germain right away (or you are all out of Grey Goose La Poire) I encourage you drop by the W Hotel and order one of these at The Livingroom Bar or Prohibition. Did you know the Foshay Tower is the original (and patented) skyscraper? Why not make a night of it and stick around for steak dinner at Manny’s?
A few words about the ingredients
Obviously, there’s St-Germain. This liqueur is complex with elements of passionfruit, pear, grapefruit and lemon. It melds very well with the pear-flavored vodka. The recipe calls for Grey Goose La Poire, and for good reason. I have tried this with Absolut Pears, and once I even made it using my own pear-infusion. It just wasn’t the same. Absolut tastes freakishly artificial to me (the bright green on the bottle doesn’t help), whereas Grey Goose seems more realistic, like biting into a ripe, juicy pear. Do yourself a big favor and spend a few more dollars.
The W Hotel uses Veuve Clicquot Champagne, but any dry sparkling white wine will do. Sure, you can use the more expensive stuff. Will you notice a difference? Maybe. Heck, you already splurged for the Grey Goose, not to mention the St-Germain, so what’s a few more dollars, right? Actually, I use whatever I have, and sometimes it’s a Rosé which adds some color.
I don’t bother with the orchid. First of all, they are expensive for a garnish. A nice plant goes for about $20 and you get what, maybe a dozen blossoms if you pick a good one? No thanks. I have a hard enough time keeping my orchids alive let alone getting them to bloom again. Instead, I’d pick up a small pear and put a slice on the rim. You could even garnish with a lemon twist.
Once you try St-Germain you’ll be tempted to try it in everything. And why not? Take just about any recipe that calls for a liqueur or syrup and swap St-Germain in its place. You’ll double your cocktail repertoire just by experimenting with this! The bottle comes with a cute booklet full of recipes and if you get on their mailing list, they will send you even more. The bottom line is that St-Germain deserves a permanent spot in your cabinet. New cocktails that use it are appearing all over with no end in sight. The flavor is a revelation, the color is beautiful, the bottle is a piece of artwork, and it’s vintage bottled—this is one product that really does live up to its hype. So, what are you doing still reading this? You must at least be curious by now. Go run out and buy some of this stuff before it’s gone!