What is Lillet Blanc?
Lillet Blanc (pronounced Lee-Lay) is an aperitif from the Bordeaux region of France that was created in 1887 as a tonic for whatever ailed you. It comes in white or red versions, the red version being created in the 1960s, and is in the same family as vermouth, but it has subtle differences. The formula for Lillet contains wine, orange peel and quinine, which provides the slightly bitter aperitif quality that has made this drink so popular.
In 1985 the Lillet Blanc formula was redeveloped to meet modern grape growing methods and to also make the aperitif more palatable to the modern consumer. They made it less bitter and reduced the sweetness. This created a more vermouth like drink.
On the nose, Lillet Blanc is very reminiscent of a Vidal ice wine. I’m not the only one to make this connection, my wife picked up on it too. Basically, it has an aroma of apricots, peach, orange, honey, and exotic fruits like mango, but the Lillet Blanc also has some hints of spice in the nose. When you taste the Lillet Blanc that’s where the comparison to ice wine ends. The Lillet is fairly sweet but not as sweet as icewine, it also has an earthiness to the flavour that’s hard to describe. The alcohol is noticeable, but more as a warming effect on the throat. The orange and subtle bitterness make for a good balance with the sweetness of the fortified wine base.
A great way to enjoy Lillet Blanc is to flame an orange peel over the drink. The orange oils provide a nice aroma and compliment the Lillet quite well. This was a popular way of serving Lillet Blanc back in the 1950s. Another good cocktail to make with Lillet Blanc is the Edith’s Fizz.
Edith’s Fizz Recipe
1½ oz Lillet Blanc
½ oz Maraschino Liqueur
4 oz fresh Orange Juice
2 oz Soda Water
Build in a collins glass with ice.
Lillet Blanc is best served on ice with an expressed orange peel, but it does have some potential to be used in place of vermouth.