Pour ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice, stir for 20 seconds and strain into a chilled martini glass (unless you have a cocktail glass with a fleur-de-lis, in which case, use that.)
I hope you’ll pardon me for not posting for a couple of weeks. I’ve been vacationing in Montreal which, for me, means checking out responsibility. Of course, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t thinking about cocktails. On the contrary, a respite commonly leads to inspiration. In this case, it was not only the unique spirits I found on the shelves in the Saq liquor stores, but the city itself.
It’s difficult to find more concentrated joie de vivre than that of summer in Montreal. Life seems to move outside for the season with runners, bikers and sidewalk cafes around every corner. Suffice it to say I was charmed.
We stayed in an airbnb a short walk from one of the city’s best cocktail bars, Bar le Lab, in the Plateau neighborhood. Everything is right about the place: attentive service; warm lighting illuminating black booths; Etta James on the stereo; and cocktails as interesting as they are delicious.
A quick trip to the Saq provided souvenirs worth experimenting with. The Québécois treat apples with the same respect given grapes in France, so I bought bottles of Gin de Neige and Rouge Gorge White Cider Vermouth. Gin de Neige is a gin made from Canadian grains and flavored with a touch of Neige Ice Cider and the apple water reserved from producing it. I had a hard time finding information online about Rouge Gorge White Cider Vermouth, so I contacted the distiller, Domaine Lafrance, to learn more. Technical Manager Laurent Paquette Boisclair responded to my inquiry, saying that Rouge Gorge is an expression of Domaine LaFrance’s role as both cider factory and distillery:
Apples are harvested and processed in juice that we put in fermentation. Some of the ciders are filtered to get clear, and some others are transformed to apple spirit by our copper still. This alcohol is used to infuse classical botanicals and to fortify the cider. Finally we mix the cider, the alcohol, the macerations and add a little sugar before bottling the vermouth. Keep in mind, our vermouth (red and white) are 100% made from the domaine, and we are proud of it.
Using local cider to make “vermouth” instead of using imported wine is a stroke of genius. It’s sweeter than dry vermouth, so substituting it for its French cousin will substantially change the character of any drink.
Back home, I decide to craft my own take on an appletini, which I’ve long considered a dreadful cocktail. I start with an ounce and a half of Gin de Neige, 3/4 ounce of white cider vermouth and a quarter ounce of Campari – a nod to Montreal’s Italian community, the second largest in Canada. I stir it with ice, strain it into a chilled glass and pass it around for tasting. We agree that it needs a little acid, and my friend suggests vinegar. Thinking it’s a tad bitter, syrupy and rough around the edges, I decide to bump up the vermouth and back off on the Campari.
For take two, I use one and a half ounces of Gin de Neige, an ounce of Rouge Gorge, one teaspoon of Campari and a quarter teaspoon of cider vinegar. The result, which I call a Pommetini, is exactly what I’m looking for – a bright yet boozy cocktail that represents what an appletini should be and reflects the beauty and pure joie of Montreal summers.