Friday, 31 July 2009

French Liqueur

French brands include Bénédictine, a plant liqueur first produced in 1510 from one of the most closely guarded of all formulas; Chartreuse, made from a formula developed in 1607, including yellow and green plant liqueurs, Cointreau, a proprietary brand of Triple Sec; Grand Marnier, produced in the Cognac region, an orange Curaçao; and Vieille Cure, a plant liqueur made in Bordeaux.

The popularity of liqueur in France is often attributed to Catherine de' Medici (1519 – 1589) who, at the age of 14, married Henry II of France and some of today's liqueurs have a parentage traceable to those times. In 1667, when Louis XIV laid siege to the city of Lille he invited 4000 guests to his large and luxurious encampment, from there to watch him assault the fortified town. One of the guests, the Duke of Saint-Simon, wrote that:

"the siege itself was quite a bore, there was never a spectacle so brilliant, so astonishing as the hundreds of tables, always freshly laid, that were ready at all times for the entertainment of any officers, courtiers or spectators who might drop in. In addition to marvellous food, there was every sort of liqueur that you can think of, and so popular were these beverages that a small army of couriers had the daily responsibility of bringing in fresh supplies from Normandy, Holland, Brittany, England and the Mediterranean."

Up until the early 17th century most of these liqueurs were made by the monastic orders as medicinal cordials. For example, in 1750 a Doctor Cornelius Bontekoe is known to have prescribed a liqueur for use against scurvy. This liqueur is believed to have been a blend using mace, nutmeg, cloves, with the peel of lemons and oranges, laced with brandy and sweetened with sugar.

The recipe for Chartreuse was originally an 'Elixir de longue Vie' (an elixir of long life), given in 1605 to a Carthusian monastery by the Marechal d'Estrees, a captain under Henri IV. Cusenier Mazarine, a French Anise liqueur, dates to a 1637 recipe of the Abbaye de Montbenoit. Recipes, too, for the herbal liqueurs of Aiguebelle, Carmeline, La Senancole, and Trappastine were also originally monastic elixirs.

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