Pure serendipity and then some: I Got an invite to attend the 4th annual Can-Can Cocktail Classic and actually even managed to attend. I knew that Buckeye vodka (read my rave here) was one of the sponsors but was unaware of the other two featured spirits that evening. Lo and behold, one was Hendricks Gin, which I consider to be the best gin on the planet (read my rave here) and the other was something called St-Germain Liqueur, which I had never heard of and consequently was very eager to try.

It would all go down in a funky old bar called Japp’s in the heart of Cincinnati’s funky Over-The-Rhine district. Over-the-Rhine is believed to be the largest, most intact 19th century, urban historic district in the United States with over 900 contributing buildings. It reminds me of Bourbon Street in New Orleans, and it really is just like stepping back into the 1800’s. Japp’s was originally opened in 1879 as a wig sewing shop by a German family and only recently opened under the original name as the bar it is today. I am definitely adding this place to my list of hangouts.

When I entered Japp’s, I was introduced to the 3 lovely mixologists for the evening and the St-Germain Rep, Jennifer.  At first, they thought I was with Buckeye, so I was given the red carpet treatment.  (Man, you Buckeye boys sure know how to influence people and win them over.) My favorite bartender was covered head to toe in tattoos and sounded like a young Goldie Hawn.  At any rate, Jennifer and I commandeered the end of the bar and began to hold court.  It was then I noticed that of the three featured drinks that evening, all of which contained St-Germain, two contained Buckeye Vodka and the third had Hendricks Gin!! 

Molly Wellmann, from Japp’s, made “The Flowering Tree” with Buckeye Vodka, St-Germain, fresh grapefruit and Crème de Violette. Susy Mulroy, from La Poste & The Comet, presented “The Summer Affair” with St-Germain, Hendricks Gin, Prosecco, fresh strawberries, cucumber and thyme. Jeannie Murray, of Jean-Robert’s Table, featured a “Summer Fling” made of Buckeye Vodka, St-Germain, Baker Bird Winery Chardonelle and fresh peaches. Susy got my vote with her “Summer Affair”. The bountiful botanics in the Hendricks paired beautifully with the flowers and fruits in the St-Germain and combined to make a truly wonderful cocktail.

Well, needless to say I ordered up tastes of everything and we ended up with 7 or so drinks in front of us.  Jennifer flatly stated that gin was not her drink but condescended to try the Hendricks after I told her that I thought it was the best gin in the world.  Her eyes lit up and she took another sip and declared she had never tasted anything like it before.  I finally got to taste the St-Germain and it was love at first sip but I’ll get into that in a moment.

Right about that moment Jim Finke, the CEO of Buckeye Vodka comes prancing through the bar dispensing Buckeye T-shirts and tidings of comfort and joy looking for all the world as happy as a skinny and clean shaven Santa Claus on Christmas morning.  He finally arrives at the end of the bar and marvels at all the glasses in front of me.  Well, DUH, we were tasting, and it wasn’t just me but he disparages me anyway by saying my speech was already slurred.  Silly boy, he has yet to see me shit faced, falling down drunk but even then my elocution is superb.  At any rate, he jumps into tasting some of the treats and finally arrives at the Hendricks Gin.  As with Jennifer, I tell him that in my professional, bloated, narcissistic, over the top opinion, it is the best gin in the world.  He then gives me that slightly slanted look that silently states that I am full of shit. He tries it anyway and his eyes light up and he tilts his head in the other direction and that eat shit grin melts away and he nods and thoughtfully says, “I can make Gin this good”.  Well you know he just might be able to because after all Gin is just vodka that has been confused by a bunch of botanicals, and they already have an excellent base vodka to start with. 

This is your mission, Jim, should you decide to accept it. As usual, should you or any member of your Buckeye Force be captured or killed, the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your existence. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, Jim.” He also agreed that the St-Germain was just as good and indeed distinctly unique.

There were also 9 delectable gourmet tidbits offered at the back of the bar but by the time I got back there all that was left were a pretzel stick and some shots of tomato watermelon gazpacho with avocado crème that was to die for. That pretzel wasn’t half bad either.

Now, let me focus on the St-Germain. What in the world is this stuff? Well, to start with, it’s a Double Gold Medal winner at the 2007 and 2008 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. It’s a liqueur made from the blossoms of elderflowers that are handpicked in the foothills of the Alps and then distilled in France into a 40 proof liqueur. The bottle is beautiful and baroque in style with many facets and it reminds me of a tall, elaborate and detailed column in a French cathedral. The liquid inside is transparent and a very pale yellowish greenish that appears rich and dreamy.

The nose is floral and fruity with hints of apples, peaches and pears and a touch of honey and is capped with bright citrus highlights. There was something mysterious in that nose, and I bet it was the essence of elderflowers, but since I have never experienced elderflowers before, I can’t say for sure. There’s also an underlying earthy sweetness to the aroma that I find very pleasant. It really reminds me of one of my favorite cocktails, a green apple martini. It is rich and thick on the palate and very pleasant and very smooth and sweet but not cloying. The nose translates to the tongue without losing anything in the interpretation. This stuff is simply wonderful. As I described previously, it pairs very nicely with Gin or Vodka and dances hand in hand with fruit and other spices. I even tried it in one of my favorite champagnes and it paired cleanly and the combination gave the bubbly an interesting taste profile. It also enhanced a mediocre Chardonnay and transformed it into a delicious drink. I do believe this St-Germain liqueur will become part of my permanent bar, and I really can’t wait to see how it will resuscitate some of my old favorites and make them interesting again. It’s around $30.00 per bottle but well worth the price as a little will go a long way, enjoy.

By George Brozowski


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