Lillet Blanc

June 12th, 2007

My adventures in gin based cocktails continue tonight with two cocktails using Lillet Blanc, a fairly obscure French apéritif. Lillet is similar to vermouth, being a fortified wine, but has a slightly more pronounced flavour than typical vermouths. Like vermouth it is available in both white (blanc) and red (rouge) versions, though I currently only have the blanc version.

Perhaps the biggest exposure Lillet has had is from the very first James Bond book, “Casino Royale”. In it, Bond orders a very specific martini, containing gin, vodka and Lillet, while playing a game of poker. The drink is later named after his lover in the film, Vesper Lynd, and the drink, ingredient list and all, survived in to the 2006 film adaptation causing something of a resurgence for the drink.

Vesper cocktail with Plymouth gin and Lillet Blanc bottles in background


Although I usually avoid shaking a clear drinks such as this, the instructions given by Bond in the book specifically ask for it to be shaken, so I went along with them. I forgot the vodka bottle in the photo above, but for reference I was using Finlandia vodka. The Vesper has quite a muted flavour. The vodka helps dull back the gin, and while the Lillet can be detected it’s very subtle. David Wondrich’s description of it as a “soft-focus Martini” seems a pretty apt description. I enjoyed it, but it pales in comparison to the Martini.

Twentieth Century cocktail with Plymouth gin, Lillet Blanc and Marie Brizard cream de cacao bottles in background

Twentieth Century

I tried both Gary Regan’s and Jimmy Patrick’s recipes for the Twentieth Century, the only difference being the smaller amount of crème de cacao in Jimmy’s recipe (which is the one listed here). I am a bit of a chocoholic, so enjoyed the more prominent cocoa flavour of Gary’s recipe, but overall I think Jimmy’s tastes more balanced. The lemon juice and Lillet combine well to produce an interesting, refreshing flavour, with the subtle cocoa flavour of the crème de cacao mixing in nicely. Along with the Martini and Aviation this is a real find – yet another fantastic gin cocktail. Honestly, if you don’t own Lillet it’s worth buying it just to make yourself a Twentieth Century.

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Posted in Crème de Cacao, Gin, Lemon, Lillet, Recipes, Vodka

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7 responses to “Lillet Blanc”

  1. Marleigh Marleigh says:

    Ah, the Twentieth Century. Tasty, that one.

    And how do you get your garnishes so curly?! They always look so much more picturesque than mine.

  2. Jay Jay says:

    I just cut the lemon with a channel knife, then wrap it around a small wooden cocktail stick and hold for about 10 seconds, tightening it to help hold the curl. The lemons I’ve been getting in the past few weeks have been a lot better at holding the curl so that’s part of the reason they’ve been good – if you look at earlier photos my twists are less impressive.

  3. Gabriel Gabriel says:

    I’m having tremendous difficulties with my lifestyle, and my garnish. Yours are looking quite nice, Jay.

    I love the way Lillet and Gin work so well together and I’ve noticed that most recipes using Lillet in a cocktail invoke at least some volume of lemon juice. The Corpse Reviver #2 is my personal favorite but given your recommendation I’m going to give the 20th Century a try. As always, nice photos.

  4. Darryl Darryl says:

    I’ve been meaning to try Lillet for a while, and this drink definitely sounds tasty. Thanks for the recipe.

  5. Jimmy Jimmy says:

    Thanks for the link. I basically got my recipe from Ted Haigh and tweaked it to my preference. This is a great cocktail either way.

  6. PJ PJ says:

    Lillet Blanc was my aperitif of choice in the mid-eighties. I try it now and it’s so much sweeter than I remember – I’d swear the formulation has changed. Anyone else?

  7. Jay Jay says:

    PJ – Lillet today is indeed sweeter than it would have been in the mid-eighties. Before 1986 the product was called Kina Lillet and had a fair amount of quinine which gave it a bitter edge. In 1986 Kina Lillet was discontinued and replaced with Lillet Blanc which reduced the quinine content hence making it sweeter. Erik has some interesting posts on trying to find a product similar to the original Kina Lillet.

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