Created in the 19th century to aid digestion, crème de menthe quickly moved from the pharmacy to the bar. With its powerful mint aromas and rich taste, the drink was served alone at the end of the meal. “Our grandparents always had two crème de menthe at home: one white and one green,” recalls Philippe Desmarais. This is why its Rivière distillery, in Cowansville, has created two. The first is colorless and minty. The second is reminiscent of the 1970s with its leaf green hue and scents of eucalyptus and chocolate. The latter is sure to please fans of the classic After Eight chocolate.
Green mint cream is enjoyed as a dessert in a pretty cut glass bowl, with or without ice cubes. And to introduce cocktail lovers to this drink from another era, we serve it in a cocktail. For example, Grasshopper is easy to prepare. Simply combine colorless crème de cacao, 35% crème, and crème de menthe verte in the shaker filled with ice and stir. This cocktail, invented 100 years ago, is a great way to use every last drop of your bottle.
Bitterer and stronger in alcohol than wine, vermouth has been served as an aperitif for centuries. The Italians claim paternity of it, yet its name comes from the German “wermut”, which means wormwood. Because this drink is in fact a wine (white or red) to which alcohol and aromatics are added. In recent decades, its production has been industrialized, standardized and its popularity has declined. However, winegrowers from all over the world are once again interested in this alcohol. Firstly because it is essential for creating trendy cocktails like the negroni. Then, because it allows winegrowers to promote both grapes and local aromatics.
In Quebec, the Val Caudalies vineyard was the precursor of this trend. In collaboration with the cocktail bar Le Lab in Montreal, he produces a vermouth based on the white Frontenac grape variety. This vermouth exists in dry or sweet version. “Vermouth as an aperitif is not completely in the customs of Quebecers, but that is changing,” notes winemaker Guillaume Leroux, who will market a red vermouth in the spring, very trendy in Spain, inspired by a trip to Barcelona. Sweet vermouth is a great introduction to this universe. Fragrances of chamomile fill the glass before being enhanced by notes of peppery spices. The bitterness on the palate is subtle.
The greatest inventions are often born by mistake. This is how Pineau des Charentes was born in the 16th century in the Charentes region of France. A winemaker would have accidentally poured his grape must into a barrel containing cognac. The pineau was born. However, it took almost 400 years before the drink was first commercialized, in the 20th century, during the Roaring Twenties. With its sweet taste, pineau is often served as an aperitif in a small cup. There are also more complex and aged pineaux that go very well with dessert.
On the South Shore of Montreal, winemaker Louis Thomas cannot use the term Pineau des Charentes, since it is a protected designation. He makes a mistelle, a mixture of grape must and alcohol, which is worth the detour. His secret? He uses brandy to fortify his vandal-cliche must. The drink is therefore silkier in the mouth. “We don’t do it every year,” he said. But it’s a product that people love! » The 2016 vintage opens with citrus notes reminiscent of kumquat. The fruit aromas are complemented by subtle notes of spices on the palate. It’s long and not too sweet.
In a small balloon, a short stemmed glass, its scents of orange peel and spices are captivating. From the first sip, the liqueur coats the palate with a syrupy and creamy texture. Born from a blend of orange liqueur and cognac, Grand Marnier has stood the test of time. Created by the Lapostolle-Marnier family in 1880, the drink was an immediate success in Paris. The digestive aroused such interest that its creators patented the bottle whose brown color, red ribbon and elongated shape are emblematic.
In the northern suburbs of Montreal, the Lafrance estate was inspired by this French digestive to develop a Quebec version. He blended orange liqueur with his apple brandy. The result is fabulous. It is fresher on the palate, and the nuances of clementine and mandarin will bring back good memories.