Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: St-Germain, the new liqueur that’s sending ripples across the cocktail scene, comes in a bottle so beautiful that it will make you forget your budget, your better judgment, and most of your morals.
The producers call their elderflower-scented concoction “vie parisienne en bouteille” and from the look of things, they’re not far off. The shape is impressively soignée, in a luxe Art Nouveau style. The labels, too, are gorgeous — even the adhesive surface sports a gentle tapestry scroll, so as to please the eye when seen through the other side of the glass. Trés elegant.
According to an impossibly precious marketing backstory, hand-picked wild elderflowers are macerated and combined with eau de vie. The result is a liqueur that balances citrus and floral notes as gracefully as a skilled waiter carries a tray of cocktails. A heavy hand with the sugar is perhaps the liqueur’s only limitation; you need a steady resolve and a miser’s touch to make a drink that captures St-Germain’s floral notes without edging into tooth-aching sweetness.
Smart folks, these Germainistes: They’ve recruited many of the cocktail world’s leading lights to wax rhapsodic about their products, both around the web and in an adorable little booklet attached to every bottle. Alas, the recipes it contains are less successful, leaning toward the cloying and bizarre. Mon dieu! Drinks featuring green-apple vodka and pineapple juice — mercifully, not together — aren’t exactly consistent with the swanky image they’re painting with the rest of the brand messaging.
Left to our own devices, we successfully used a splash and a half of St-Germain to create impromptu Champagne cocktails. Meanwhile, we considered drinks that could benefit from the liqueur’s mysterious undertones without collapsing under the sugar’s weight.
We didn’t have to go far down our roster of possibilities to encounter a combination that puts this floral mixture in a flattering light. We started with a traditional Aviation, replacing the maraschino liqueur with St-Germain. The elderflower twines well with the lemon, but you may need to gently tinker with proportions to compensate for sweeter or more acidic fruit. Lime makes a pleasant alternative, should you be so disposed.
We christened our variation Le Bourget, in honor of the once-bucolic airfield where Lindbergh landed the Spirit of St. Louis after his landmark flight; nowadays it’s a bustling commuter hub and the home of the biannual Salon International de l’Aéronautique where — this very week — French aircraft manufacturers are touting their wares to potential clients. What better moniker for a French Aviation?
2 oz gin
1/2 oz St-Germain elderflower liqueur
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
Shake well with ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.