St. Germain – a French liqueur made from elderflowers – is undoubtedly the current darling of Seattle’s cocktail scene. Coinciding with the movement toward hand-crafted cocktails and speakeasy-themed lounges, this exotic French spirit is popping up on cocktail menus all around the city. Despite its popularity, St. Germain is available in limited quantities. Elderflowers have a short blossoming season and do not keep well once picked making mass production difficult. Each year, 40 or 50 farmers head out to the French Alps to pick the elderflowers used to make St. Germain. The flowers are carefully packed into sacks and carted to market on bicycles. Whatever the farmers are able to collect over a several day period is what will be used to make that year’s supply of St. Germain. St. Germain is produced using old-world techniques dating back to the 1880’s. Although it is a relatively new spirit, it’s now wonder why fans of retro cocktails are flocking to St. Germain. The traditional harvesting and distillation process, the beautiful chiseled bottle – everything about St. Germain just seems old (take a look at their website, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.)

My liquor store seems to be perpetually out of stock. After weeks of searching, I finally got my hands on a bottle of St. Germain. I was immediately entranced by its complex aroma: part grapefruit, passionfruit, pear, lychee, and, of course, flowers. The flavor is sweet though not nearly as sweet and cloying as some liqueurs. I wouldn’t drink it straight, but I could see myself adding a small amount of St. Germain to nearly any cocktail. It mixes amazingly well with most types of alcohol. Gin, rum, bourbon, tequila – you name it. It adds a light sweetness and just the right amount of that alluring aroma to any drink you put it in. Use it in place of simple syrup for an extra deluxe cocktail!

So far, I have made two different cocktails using St. Germain. First, I decided to try the signature drink: The St. Germain Cocktail. This super-easy recipe calls for 2 shots of champagne or dry white wine (preferably Sauvignon Blanc), 1½ shots St. Germain, and 2 shots sparkling water. You simply stir the ingredients together in a tall, ice-filled glass and add a lemon twist garnish. I used a dry Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. It was still a little sweet for me but proved to be very refreshing on a hot day. Robert described it as tasting like “the world’s most delicious sprite.” I thought it tasted like a Gewurtztraminer spritzer. I’d be curious to see how it is made with Champagne instead of Sauvignon Blanc.

For my second drink, I attempted to recreate the St. James Cooler Robert had at Knee-High several weeks ago. For this drink, I placed in an ice-filled cocktail shaker: 4 to 5 mint leaves, 1 shot of bourbon, ½ shot of St. Germain, 1 teaspoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice and a dash of angostura bitters. I shook it up and poured it into a short glass filled with ice. Then, I topped it off with 1 shot sparkling water and a fresh mint sprig garnish. This recipe required a bit more effort than the St. Germain Cocktail but was much more my style of drink. Robert and I spent a lazy Sunday afternoon reading our books and sipping on St. James Coolers. If that’s an indication of things to come, I’m looking forward to sampling my way through many more St. Germain-inspired cocktails over the remaining weeks of summer!

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