If this wine-based aperitif is still a mystery to you, these great cocktails will help you out.
Made from Bourdeaux grapes and macerated fruit liqueur, Lillet is a wine-based aperitif that’s rich and supple on the palate but bright and lively in character, gently fruity but not too sweet. It’s complex and balanced all on its own, and it’s great served simply—with ice, soda, and a lemon wedge, say, or even just over ice.
But it’s a dream for mixed drinks. While we’ve played around with Lillet in summer cocktails before, there’s no reason we can’t return to such a versatile bottle as the summer winds down. Here are three cocktails to try out before the warm days of August are through.
When you add the low-proof Lillet to a cocktail, it often slides in seamlessly, lightening up the drink without overtly changing its character. So when you take half the gin from a G&T and swap in Lillet, you’ve got a less boozy, but no less drinkable version of the original. And it’s just as easy to make.
Instructions: In a tall glass with ice, stir together an ounce of Lillet, an ounce of gin, and three ounces of club soda. Garnish with a long, long lemon peel, and add a lime wedge too.
Intermediate: Reverse Lillet Martini
We love playing around with classics like the martini, and substituting Lillet for dry vermouth yields a slightly juicier, more dynamic drink. (Try it with both vodka and gin, and you’ve got a Vesper.) But Lillet is so delicious that here, we’re upping the amount considerably, for a reverse martini: 2 parts Lillet to one part vodka, rather than the other way around. A little lemon peel is all it needs.
Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, combine two ounces of Lillet and an ounce of vodka. Stir until well-chilled, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Advanced: Rye-Lillet Sour
The wine-based Lillet has a pleasantly grape-y quality, which means that it mixes well with any grape-based spirit—like Cognac—but has similar characteristics all on its own. When we back up light Lillet with a brawny dark spirit like rye, the result has some of the heft of an aged spirit but Lillet’s lively character. Add the orange liqueur Cointreau and fresh lemon juice, and you’ve got a sour that almost reminds us of the classic Sidecar, just reimagined as an even more summer-friendly drink.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine an ounce and a half of Lillet, half an ounce of rye, half an ounce of fresh lemon juice, half an ounce of simple syrup, and a quarter-ounce of Cointreau. Shake until very well-chilled, then strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a lemon wheel.