It’s probably a ruse. It’s probably that I’m up in the hills. But, and only very recently, the days seem breezier and cooler and the nights feel almost brisk. The light even seems to have changed. I know summer isn’t running away yet, but it is certainly dropping a hint or two. I always get excited when the seasons begin to change. While I love each season and each of their defining characteristics, as subtle as they may be here in our fair city, the late-summer-into-early-fall time is my favorite. This air, this light and this time of year is the most beautiful and temperate – and elicits fond memories from almost every phase from my life. And so as this summer draws to a close, I’d like to reminisce, with you, about my favorite summer drink.
Lillet (pronounced lil-LAY), first produced in 1887, is a French aperitif: a fortified white wine from the Bordeaux region. It is a blend of 85% wine and citrus liqueurs made from a variety of oranges. Lillet is matured in oak casks and in both red and white versions. The red is slightly less bitter and sugary, and more fruit forward. I only drink the white. It is traditionally served over ice, with an orange twist.
Lillet is a very cool drink. So cool that James Bond ordered Lillet in his martini in Casino Royale (actually name-checked in Ian Fleming’s original book) and Quantum of Solace. Even the bottle is beautiful, although they have recently changed the label. I’ll have to get used to that.
Lillet is a classic, restorative drink, slightly sweet, with aromas of herbs, candied orange, honey and apple that come through on the palate. I’ve always said, simply, “it tastes like flowers”. Whilst drinking Lillet, I often feel like I’m IN Led Zeppelin’s “Tangerine”, “Ramble On”, or “That’s the Way” (“and yesterday, I saw you kissing tiny flowers”). It makes me feel wistful, breezy, tranquil, and, dare I be so mawkish as to say, romantic. It’s a perfect drink for the sunset – before even considering sitting/settling down and committing to dinner.
Today is Labor Day, symbolic of the end of the summer and my friend, April, will be coming over in a bit. Unusual for me, I have made a statement that we will NOT be cooking dinner or planning any specific activity. We have simply dedicated the afternoon/early evening to lounging in the breezy, waning sunshine, maybe making a few noshables, playing some cards, catching up and drinking Lillet.
FYI - Lillet may seem like it would be hard to find, but it’s really not. Chances are that it is sitting, collecting dust, in your local liquor store.