If we get a summer like 2018, we are sorted right? I spent hours outside with my friends sipping on various forms of Rosé and aperitif in the early evening sunshine. I plan on doing the whole thing again this year. But I’ve discovered some new drinks thanks to a trip to France in April with Lillet. I knew nothing about it before then, and I am more up to speed on it now and how it’s going to change my summer drink of choice (I love you Rosé I just need a change ok?)
In a very small village called Podensac, about an hour from Bordeaux lies an aperitif institution, Lillet. It employs only nine people but manages to product about 5 million litres of the drink a year to quench the needs of a thriving drinks market (Germany is their biggest one). The drink is a wine based aperitif that can be drunk on its own, or preferably, as a spritz (more on that in a bit). The company has been in existence since 1872, thanks to two enterprising brothers who realised the medicinal potential of wine to treat things like fevers. So they made a quinine based drink in 1877 called Kina Lillet which grew in popularity over a hundred years or so. It then re branded to Lillet as it has been known since then.
Let’s talk about the drink itself. Spritz is the main “cocktail” made by adding tonic water to the Lillet pour and then garnishing with things like mint and strawberries. Lillet has three forms, blanc, rouge and rosé. Oh yes rosé. At the winery, we tasted lots of combinations, but the Lillet Blanc with tonic was my absolute favourite. If you like drinks that are slightly dry, then you’ll love this. The rouge is more sweet, and the rosé sits in between. I can just see the rosé spritz all over the rooftop bars of Dublin this summer.
Lillet is situated in the most beautiful part of France. After the lovely trip to Podensac, we headed to the coastal resort of Arcachon. And oh my, I’ll live there thanks. I’ll have a hillside mansion overlooking the sea and the Dune of Pilat (biggest dune in Europe) any day. I was so taken by the scenery and the laid back vibe of this part of France, which I had never been to before. Our first experience of the drink had been on the rooftop of Mama Shelter in Bordeaux to watch the sun set and honestly I didn’t think it would get better than that. But we were taken up the hills passed Arcachon to the La Coorniche Resort and to the most breathtaking view. And I went to Instagram heaven. Sometimes a picture cannot express how vast and wondrous a scene is. This was one of those moments.
Day two was a boat trip around the bay of Cap Ferret, known for being the second home to many a rich person. I want to retire there. It was the most glorious day, and sitting on a boat, drifting in the calm water, eating fresh shellfish and drinking spritz, I couldn’t remember a more calm moment in my life. Nature is so powerful, as is a nice drink and a few oysters I have to admit.
Heading back home from Bordeaux, I spent some time thinking about why the French love their pre-dinner drink. And I think I know why having visited this beautiful place. There is nothing like the sip of a cold, enticing drink on a summer’s evening after a long week. Sitting around with your friends, chatting, sipping, socialising. I saw this in Bordeaux on our first evening, it seemed so civilised. And it’s given me an appetite to explore France a bit more.
Places we stayed and visited:
Lillet (and recipes here)