The Secret to Great Cocktails

If you’ve recently imbibed a cocktail smacking of summer, chances are you’ve tasted one of the many drinks bubbling up along the North Shore made with St-Germain, a liqueur from France that is shaking up the cocktail scene.

According to its producer, St-Germain is the first liqueur in the world created in the artisanal French manner from freshly handpicked elderflower blossoms. The marketers behind the product spin a romantic tale depicting men on bicycles meandering through the fields in the foothills of the Alps to pick the elderflowers during their short springtime harvest.

The result: a limited quantity of the elixir, which has racked up awards and accolades since its 2007 release. How distiller Robert Cooper of The Cooper Spirits Co. is able to retain the sweet taste during the processing of the flower is top secret.

This liqueur de rigueur hints of grapefruit, pear and peach, and has an intensity best tamed by a splash of another alcohol and juice. Bartenders at many of the North Shore’s top restaurants have devised their own concoctions that are proving hugely popular with patrons.

“St-Germain is really a perfect liqueur,” said Peggy McAtamney, general manager of The Stained Glass and The Cellar in Evanston. “It has the elegance and mystery surrounding the name, and a wonderful, yet subtle element of sweetness that balances many cocktail combinations.”

McAtamney worked with the restaurant’s bartenders and staff to come up with three St-Germain-based drinks. “Passion,” their top-selling cocktail, is a blend of Tanqueray gin, St-Germain and passion fruit juice, topped off with a splash of sparkling wine.

When serving customers requesting a refreshing drink, Francesca’s Intimo of Lake Forest offers up a mix of pear-flavored Grey Goose vodka, St-Germain and pineapple juice.

Other bartenders are adding more unconventional ingredients. One of the more popular drinks at Abigail’s American Bistro in Highland Park, aptly named “It’s Thyme,” combines St-Germain with house-made, thyme-infused, pear-flavored Grey Goose vodka and white grapefruit juice, along with a sprig of fresh thyme.

If you want to shake up your own St-Germain-based cocktail, the distillery recommends recipes on its web site at www.stgermain.fr. Binny’s Beverage Depot in Northbrook sells a 750- milliliter bottle of St-Germain for $39.99.

Have you concocted the perfect St-Germain-based cocktail? Please share it with our readers by posting it on the Make It Better Facebook page.

My favorite St-Germain drink recipe:

  • 1 ½ ounces St-Germain
  • 1 ounce North Shore Distillery’s Distiller’s Gin No. 6
  • 1 ounce Sauvignon Blanc

Shake it up with lots of ice in a martini shaker, pour through a strainer and enjoy!