Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Q.Q.F. File: Lillet

One of the neighborhood wine and spirit stores is featuring Lillet in the window. The bottle and display are visually attractive, and so I decided to sample this book because of the cover. And what a lovely find it is.

Lillet is an aperitif wine from Bordeaux, created in 1887 by the Brothers Lillet. It was part of a whole fruit-and-herbed flavored quinine-based cocktail wines movement. The original, Kina Lillet, was apparently very bitter, but the quinine content was only reduced as recently as 1985.

Kina Lillet was the basis of Bond's tribute to Vesper Lynd, when he finally names his libation for her.

"A dry martini," [Bond] said. "One. In a deep champagne goblet."

"Oui, monsieur."

"Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?"

"Certainly, monsieur." The barman seemed pleased with the idea.

"Gosh, that's certainly a drink," said Leiter.

Bond laughed. "When I'm...er...concentrating," he explained, "I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink's my own invention. I'm going to patent it when I can think of a good name."

-Ian Fleming, Casino Royale

The modern Lillet (no longer Kina) is bitter enough for my taste. It is tangy and thicker than dinner wines, and to be served well chilled.

But what I like most about it is a sentiment on the label:

"It can be enjoyed anywhere, on any occasion; however it is perfect for those special times when day turns to evening and evening turns to night!" [bold emphasis theirs]

A specific wine for a specific day part. I love the idea of marking the transition from the day--with its toils and cares--to evening, and evening to night--with all the possibilities that await there, as the French soul knows very well.


blue girl said...

I am romantic about my drinks, too. Good wines, dry martinis...

I also love the glasses. I have a passion for the perfect red wine glass and the perfect martini glass.

spud chandler said...

"perfect for those special times when day turns to evening and evening turns to night!"

My theory is that the dim lighting at sunset is perfect for Le Chiffre being able to slip knock out drops into Bond's glass.

If Bond would stick with a glass of Campari on the rocks at lunch he wouldn't have these problems
AND he would remain refreshed enough to foil any number of fiendishly clever villians before dinner.

Tim Footman said...

Unfortunately, in Britain, Lillet is a brand of tampon.

M.A.Peel said...

Ah, yes, and so the romance of the British soul. Thanks for sharing, Tim.

Mark Hazard said...

I wouldn't really describe Lillet as bitter in any way, but then maybe my palate isn't as sensitive as it once was due to a regular diet of dry Martinis.

If you make a Vesper with Lillet Blanc you can add a drop of bitters to get closer to the original taste. I've tried both with and without and think the addition of the bitters makes the better drink.