Nothing says indulgence like French aperitif wine – Lillet (pronounced Lee – Lay), the star of Heure D’aperitif at Weather Up Tribeca, an event held by The Manhattan Cocktail Classic (MCC) this past weekend. Saturday’s scorching heat provided the perfect excuse for celebrating Lillet’s exquisite blend of Bordeaux wines and citrus liqueurs made from the peels of Spanish, Moroccan and Haitian oranges.
Contributing interviewer Janeviva Uwera quenches our thirst for knowledge with with her account of the experience and a brief interview with charming Lillet brand ambassador, Amanda Boccato and Richard Boccato, the proprietor of Weather Up Tribeca.
With it’s Parisian feel, Weather Up’s interior was the perfect setting for an afternoon of sipping cocktails that harkened back to 1920s France. Adding to the romance, a huge artisinal ice sculpture with a carved floral center served as both centerpiece and bottle display shelf.
The Li-Lily Pad – Lillet Rose, Hendricks gin, fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, house made Creme de Violette with edible Poppy flower. A little strong for my taste, the gin is the likely culprit but it was a hit with everyone else. As relayed to Janeviva by Amanda, ” The Lillet Rose acts as a balance for the cocktail, making it a lighter despite being a tad overpowering”.
Lillet rose apertif – Lillet rose, served on ice with a grapefruit slice. Refreshing, light and perfect for summer. This is what I see myself coming home to after a long day of food blogging. Citrus undertones complimented by the aroma of flowers and a hint of berries.
The Va-Va Rogue – Lillet rogue, St.Germaine, Orange bitters, Champagne and long orange twist. Similar to sangria, and equally divine, but with Lillet used as base rather than a topping. Fruity and tart with just the right amount of champagne. A perfect thermos-filler for Prospect or Central Park this summer.
The beautiful ice sculpture by Richard Boccato, AKA the Ice King, at Weather Up in Tribeca.
Janeviva was fortunate enough to chat all things Lillet with charming hostess Amanda Boccato, and Weather Up proprietor and chief mixologist, Richard Boccato.
Janeviva Uwera : The introduction of Lillet this Spring has been met with a lot of excitement this Spring. What were the determining factors for introducing a new product after nearly 50 years?
Amanda Boccato : Essentially it has been a campaign a long time in the making. The Rose has a slight variation blend of the Lillet blanc and Lillet Rogue and a secret family ingredient.
J.U : What determines a great, refreshing Lillet cocktail?
A. B : The cocktails you’ve had here today are a great example of that! A Lillet cocktail is defined by using Lillet as a base and you can have it by itself as well. I also love adding fresh fruit on occassion.
J. U : As part of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, does Lillet transcend it’s role as an apertif? The french drink it as it is, with a fruit garnish. Is the emergence of it as a cocktail ingredient more common in America?
A.B : I am trying to bring the French and also Italian culture of consuming apertivos. Since the late 1800s, the French have enjoyed Lillet traditionally by itself, with a bit of ice and orange slice. It was intended to be drank that way. The way it was translated in the States, a lot of bartenders and mixologists use it as an accent in their cocktails and it’s subtle. Lillet is light and refreshing and not heavy in alcohol and can be had at any time of the day.
J. U : Your role as Lillet ambassador must be exciting and rewarding in so many ways. With National Apertif day drawing closer (May 17th) what, if any, ideas might you have on how those unfamiliar with Lillet might discover and enjoy it.
A.B : We created National Apertif day (May 17th), it is an official holiday. We are happy to share it with other apertif brands. We are looking to embrace the whole cullture of apertifs and bring it back to the States, it’s long been forgotten. The best way to experience Lillet would be at an event like this one.
J.U : The Ice here is what makes this establishmnet (Weather Up) special? Can you tell us a little more about it?
Richard Boccato a.k.a (The Ice King) : The Ice comes from a machine called the Clindell, which is mainly used by sculpters. It freezes over the course of two and a half to three days, six hundred pounds of ice in the form of two, three hundred ton blocks. They sit in their own chamber with a machine that reaches from the bottom up; with pumps that constantly circulate the water to remove impurities or oxygen bubbles to give the ice a crystal clear look. At the end of each cycle we hoist them out and use chainsaws and other weaponry of torture (gasp ;)) to create the shapes of ice we need for the cocktails.
J. U : Does this enhance the cocktails in any way?
R. B : Absolutely! If you think about why we like to use large format ice, it’s because of the surface area of each cube and the temperature. We are trying to combat unnecessary water content. It keeps your drink colder for a longer period of time.
Thanks to Amanda and Richard for making this such a fun and informative event. Don’t forget folks, tomorrow is National Apertif day. Let’s raise a glass to good digestion, great friends and family and more Lillet gatherings! Salut!