I just can’t leave the small appellation Cérons without paying a visit to Lillet’s birthplace. Just a few kilometers north of Château de Cérons, within the borders of the appellation, I find Podensac. A village with less than 3000 inhabitants. This is the place where Bordeaux’ native apéritif is made; Lillet.
Sweet little Lillet is known from the movies, including an appearance in “Casino Royale” where James Bond ordered a Kina Lillet Martini. Lillet’s first name Kina has been dropped, but refers to its content of quinine.
White wine from Bordeaux is the main ingredient, probably Sauvignon blanc and some Sémillon, but information varies. 85% wine is mixed with 15% fruit liqueurs made of different kind of oranges, from Spain, Maroc, Tunisia and Haiti. And then there is the quinine, extracted from bark from Cinchona, a tree found in Peru.
The beverage is then matured in barrells for 6-12 months. To keep the flavour constant, several vintages are blended. Well, that is about as much as we know. The details in the recipe are not surprisingly a secret.
If you don’t want to add Lillet to your Dry Martini, or mix it in any other drink, you enjoy it as it is. Really cold, 6-8 degrees, preferably with a lot of ice and a slice of lemon.
Fresh, a little aromatic nose with citrus and elderflowers. Alluringly sweet with balanced acidity, nice body and a touch of oak. Fruitiness from oranges and lemon. Good length with lemon and some bitterness. My mind goes to barrique matured Sauvignon blanc, Cointreau and wormwood. A luscious apéritif, which makes me long for warm summer evenings.
Lillet has become an old lady, but still as fresh as in her youth. The apéritif was created back in 1872 by the brothers Paul and Raymond Lillet. Very popular in the 1930ies, but sales dropped when other beverages came into fashion. In 1985 the company was bought by the owner to Château Ducru Beaucaillou, Bruno Borie, who with marketing and a slightly changed recipe once again boosted sales. Since 2008 Lillet is a part of the Pernod-Ricard portfolio.
James Bond, he called his Lillet Martini a Vesper and gave us the recipe: “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.”