The Desire for That Which Is To Be Denied

Building a home bar is an exercise in setting priorities. Spicy rye whiskey, decent mixing gin and a bottle of Cointreau? Right up there at the top of the list. Maraschino liqueur, Campari and Chartreuse? Maybe around level B, after all the basics are covered and you’re ready to explore a little bit. Dutch-style gin or Martinique rum? Wild cards – grab ‘em when you find ‘em, but you probably won’t use them that much, and putting a lot of energy into the search will only leave you frustrated (unless you live near Hi-Time Wine, Bev-Mo, Sam’s, Astor Place, or a very few other mondo liquor stores in the country. Lucky bastards.). Advocaat? A bargain bin or surprise-your-guests oddity; otherwise, save the space for a bottle of something more useful.

Until about a month ago, I placed Parfait Amour in the same neighborhood as Advocaat, Creme de Noyeaux and Baranjager. It’s an amusing, obscure liqueur, mentioned in plenty of old cocktail manuals, but almost entirely as a layer in a sticky-sweet pousse cafe. Purple in color and with a taste, as Ted Haigh writes in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, “like the delicate combination of grape jelly beans and marshmallows,” Parfait Amour is a mixological curiosity, an unusual 19th-century violet, orange and vanilla liqueur that somehow made it’s way into 21st-century Washington State liquor stores (plenty of them, too — you’ll have to drive all over town to find a bottle of Punt E Mes, but Parfait Amour? It’s everywhere.)

Or it was until recently, anyway. That’s because a little over a month ago, the rows of pretty purple Marie Brizard bottles suddenly wound up with a bright orange tag on the shelf beneath them — CLOSEOUT. Evidently, someone at the state liquor board finally figured out that nobody was buying this stuff, and decided to drop the axe on the old Perfect Love. It’s days are numbered here in Washington; soon, that shelf space will be given over to Sour Guava Pucker, or Cabana Boy Rhubarb-flavored Rum, or some other ghastly product-of-the-month.

Faced with the demise of this liqueur (locally, anyway), realizing that this classic flavor I’d often sneered at would soon be denied me, I found myself, first, offended and dismayed that the product was being removed, and, inexplicably, with a strong desire to grab a bottle of this liqueur before it disappeared.

After putting it off until I was afraid I’d missed my chance, I finally picked up a bottle last week, and set to making the one non-pousse cafe-style drink I knew of offhand that called for Parfait Amour: the Jupiter Cocktail.

Jupiter Cocktail

  • 1 1/2 ounces gin
  • 3/4 ounce dry vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon Parfait Amour

Shake with ice, and strain into chilled cocktail glass.

Back to Vintage Spirits: Haigh credits Harry MacElhone with printing the first known recipe for the Jupiter in 1923. I found Doc’s description of the drink spot-on, mostly: it doesn’t have a very appealing color (kind of purply grey and hazy), but it does have a special something in the flavor. But to my taste, that special something was too vague – with a teaspoon each of the two modifiers, the Jupiter tasted like a classic dry martini with something indefinable dribbled into it. Not bad – actually pretty good – but still, it was a minor taste at the periphery of the drink.

I made a second version of the Jupiter that was more in line with my palate. I increased everything: ratcheted up the gin to 2 oz., the vermouth to 1 oz, and the OJ and PA to 1/2 ounce each (that’s about 3 teaspoons – I added it a teaspoon at a time, tasting as I went until I found an agreeable balance). This version, I found, kept the gin and vermouth flavor dominant, but the fruit and liqueur flavors became more than just a ghostly echo. Of course, I’ve only just started with the drink, so after a few more versions, I may find myself toning it back to Doc’s suggested recipe.

Was it worth the purchase? Maybe. Granted, when the state placed Parfait Amour on the dead-booze-walking list, it did wind up in the bargain bin. But now I’ve got a 750 ml bottle (shy 4 teaspoons) of grape candy-flavored liqueur taking up precious space in my crowded liquor cabinet (actually, it’s now in my liquor annex, on a shelf in the hall closet). I like the Jupiter, but I don’t know if I like it enough to work my way through the bottle. Pousse cafe, anyone?

15 Responses to The Desire for That Which Is To Be Denied

  1. I’ve been looking for a bottle of Parfait Amour here in Mass. for quite some time. In my “Ultimate Cocktails” book, there’s a picture of a Marie Brizard bottle, but the Brizard web site makes no mention of Parfait Amour. So I wonder if it is more than just a store decision, but rather a bottler one? And have we seen the last of Parfait Amour?

  2. Rick says:

    Paul,

    You prompted a quick search on the PA lcb website, and to my delight, I see that I can special order it. I’ve been able to order only one bottle at a time of Marie Brizard spirits (instead of the 6+ minimum I’m used to).

    Perhaps…

  3. erik_flannestad says:

    I’ve never quite been able to bring myself to purchase a Parfait Amour. Figuring that there are far more interesting things to waste my alcohol budget on.

    After reading your write up, it’s even lower on the list. Grape Candy? Ah, well, no thanks. I’ll hold out for real Creme de Violette.

    Speaking of obscure Italian aperitifs, I can tell you that Aperol tastes an awful lot like a gentian spiked liquid version of orange flavored children’s aspirins.

    ~Erik

  4. Rick says:

    Aperol sounds like a medicine :)

    On the hated non-recommendation by Chris over at Boston Cocktails, I picked up a bottle of Fernet Branca and instantly fell in love with it. It’s strange how the desire to enjoy something for the first time plays so much a part in its taste.

  5. Rick says:

    It just so happened that egullet was next in my list of tabs…

    eGullet: Aperol

  6. erik_flannestad says:

    Funny that I would mention it here and it would come up on eGullet a day later!

    In any case, after posting here and there, I figured I should give it another try. I do think the cocktail I posted over there is pretty tasty, if you like sweet-ish campari and soda type things. The orange zest and juice I added allows me to get past the somewhat syrupy flavor of the Aperol.

    Still curious how they’re serving it at Pegu, that the “Intro to Aperol” is several people’s favorite new cocktail.

  7. Marylou says:

    Ok, I have been looking everywhere for Parfait Amore. I had a Lavender Cosmo at an upscale bar in St. Paul, MN and the recipe calls for the following:
    Absolute Mandrin Vodka, Parfait Amour, Lime Sour, and Cranberry Juice.
    The drink is beyond delicious and I am hoping someone might know what measurements I should use, but first I have to find Marie Brizard Parfait Amour!!!

  8. I bought a bottle of this stuff at LeNell’s last night–the Marie Brizard bottling. Came home and wanted a digestif, so I used the recipe on the back of the bottle–2 parts gin, 1 part parfait amour. Except that I upped the gin a bit.

    The wifeperson and I actually liked it, surprisingly. It’s too sweet for daily consumption, I think, and I might experiment with some lemon juice in there.

    Overall, I thought the flavors were a bit more layered and subtle than some folks describe. Again, it’s not a regular quaff. I figure the bottle I bought will last at least a year.

    And since we have a friend who loves colorful drinks, this gives me another option for when he’s over to visit.

  9. Michele says:

    I just bought a bottle of Parfait Amour at Bristol Farms in San Diego; haven’t opened it yet. Funny–I love Aperol in sparkling wine as an aperitif; but when I tried Fernet Branca for the first time I was revolted by the black, oily, bitter taste. I put the rest of my shot glass into a beaker from my husband’s lab, where he was working as a postdoc at the time. When I told an Italian acquaintance, “It tastes like medicine”, she said, “It IS medicine!” Apparently there is a bottle in every Italian household for stomach upsets; and that is exactly the use to which we put the rest of the bottle.

  10. Lynette says:

    Hi MaryLou: I love the Lavender Cosmopolitan as well and am making it this evening for a party! I first tasted it at Palomino’s in San Francisco and have been hooked ever since. The recipe is 1 oz cranberry juice, 1 oz mandarin vodka, 1 oz parfait amour. Shake in martini glass and then pour into glass rimmed first with lime then dipped in lavender sugar (can use regular sugar, but in Cal lavender sugar is very easy to find). I couldn’t find the parfair amour (I live in a small town in northern California and no place had it). But I went on Bevmo’s website and could order it online and they shipped it to me. Just thought I’d let you know. By the way, even the largest Bevmo’s in San Francisco, San Jose, etc. only have 2 bottles of parfait amour available!

  11. [...] shelf</a> for quite some time, I finally felt inspired after reading through this archived post on Cocktail [...]

  12. Tim says:

    Don’t worry too much about missing your parfait amour, you can get it with a simple drive to Portland.

  13. T. Mixeur says:

    Parfait Amour can now be had at the 4th Ave. South liquor store in Seattle. At least it could last week. I had good results using it in a revision of a “Bourbon” cocktail.

    According to cocktaildb.com, a bourbon is 1.5 oz benedictine, .75 oz bourbon, .75 oz. lemon, dash Curacao, dash Angostura. Shake and strain into cocktail glass.

    I made a drink with the same principles, but instead of Curacao used a barspoon of Parfait Amour, instead of Angostura used Fee’s aromatic bitters, and garnished with a long strip of lime zest.

    Whoopee! It was good!

  14. R Wenner says:

    Parfait Amour –nostalga for the old British West Indies where I worked as a field ornithologist in the 1970′s! My crew and I once came down from the mountains, took bath, shaved and cut our hair; and went to the only restaurant on the Island (which shall remain unnamed).

    The establishment had several liquor miniatures gathering dust on shelves around the walls, and the purple “Parfait Amour” intrigued us all. After dinner we played gin rummy at the table and agreed the loser had to buy the Parfait Amour miniature so we could all taste it.

    Bets were also made as to what it tasted like. Some of the bets were “Violet” “Grape” “Plum”, etc. I lost, and so had to buy the little amethyst bottle–we all smelled and tasted it, and decided it tasted like either 1) lavender smelling salts, or 2) bubblegum mothballs.

    We tipped it into a gin and tonic, turning it a charming pastel mauve with a faint taste of naptha. It was passible, We ornithologists called our creation an “Eggplant” .

  15. jogigharbor says:

    find it on wa state liquor site. or i found an app for my touch. its awesome! you can find what u want, location and # of bottles avail at that location. i for one am going to go get as many as i can before i have to resort to buying it on line. Perfect Cosmo, my own recipe-3oz chocolate/whip vodka, .5oz vanilla navan,1oz parfait, .5oz lavender syrup (homemade), 1.5oz club soda, marchino cherry & cocoa lavender sugar for rim. sounds complicated but its easy really, add to cocktail shaker w/ice and strain into glass w cherry. Excellent!

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