French cocktails take the bar scene by storm19-10-2016
It’s now almost 10 years since France honed a serious taste for the art of mixology. Many French bars now offer a wide selection of innovative cocktails, of which a fair few have opted to incorporate French spirits in the mix, making this one of the hottest trends.
France has always been a cocktail wonderland. Back in 1925, a bartender at the Ritz in Paris was putting the finishing touches to the famous “Mimosa”, a subtle blend of Champagne, orange juice and Triple sec. And still today the famous Triple sec liqueur is a firm feature in a variety of cocktails. A French invention, this liqueur has found fame throughout the world largely down to its association with Cointreau, a key ingredient in the famous Margarita. Cointreau was created in 1875 in Angers by two brothers, Adolphe and Edouard-Jean Cointreau, and is the leading Triple sec brand. Almost 90% of production is exported and more than half ends up on the US market. Cointreau is arguably the jewel in the crown of cocktail mixes around the world and hails from France.
“Old” spirits make a comeback
Other lesser known French spirits have returned to the forefront of the bar scene over the last two years. Suze, Byrrh, Absinthe, Chartreuse, Lillet and Benedictine are all stalwart French spirits currently enjoying a revival, backed by large spirit companies. The Pernod Group is keen to elevate theses brands – often considered on the bitter side – to their former glory. Thanks to boundary-pushing cocktail mixes, the brand is finding a footing in new bars.
Pastis is also an extremely popular drink, particularly in summer months. Currently riding on a wave of success, it is sold in rapidly increasing quantities on terraces of French bars and cafés. Some bartenders even refer to it as king of the aperitif. Served with olives, tapenade, or simply crisps and peanuts, Pastis is easy to drink and captures the quintessence of “la vie à la francaise”.
On the cocktail trail
For the last two years, the “France Quintessence” trade fair has become a regular September fixture. Each year the spirits-centred exhibition focuses on the latest drinking trends and spirit-based cocktail recipes. A return to the Made in France cocktail is clearly a trend permeating the scene.
One of the leading lights spearheading this movement is Stephen Martin. Voted France’s best mixologist in 2009 and co-founder of A la francaise bar in Paris’s 11th arondissement, he serves “coquetels” (spelt thus!) using traditional French aperitifs. By incorporating creams or sweeter-style syrups, he reduces the bitterness responsible for curtailing the success of this style of spirit among a new generation of consumers. La Raphaelle is perhaps the perfect example – a cocktail combining St-Raphael Ambre, gentian and raspberry cream liqueur.
The current appetite for mixology will be showcased once more at the Paris Cocktail Festival, held 25-27 November at the Elysee Montmartre in Paris.