France and the United States have a special relationship. The French have been our allies for nearly 250 years, they lent a hand during America’s fight for independence and even sent us a lovely gift of a big copper statue named Liberty. They also ship delicious spirits and aperitifs our way, bottles you should definitely be stocking at home.
Whether you’re a full-fledged Francophile who plays pétanque, collects Degas prints and always has a wheel of Camembert in the fridge or you’re new to all things françaises, consider one of these six distinguished French spirits for your home bar.
Made by Carthusian monks in the mountains outside of Grenoble for almost 300 years, Chartreuse’s strong, heady flavor is the result of a secret blend of 130 herbs and botanicals. Whether you pick Green (110 proof) or Yellow (80 proof), the elixir can be sipped with a single ice cube, a splash of water or in delicious cocktails like the Last Word.
This slightly sweet aperitif, invented for the French Foreign Legion, is a refreshing afternoon beverage served neat or over ice. Or feature it instead of sweet vermouth in a lighter take on a Manhattan. Flavored with herbs and spices, the aromatized wine also includes quinine, which was originally used to combat malaria.
Popular in western France, this fortified wine is one of the most delightful pre-dinner beverages around. It’s a combination of grape must and eau-de-vie (unaged brandy) left over from making cognac. Look for Pierre Ferrand’s tasty bottling. It’s best enjoyed slightly chilled.
The quintessential aperitif wine, Lillet is made in a small village south of Bordeaux using wine and macerated sweet and bitter orange and quinine. It comes in Blanc, Rouge and Rosé. The Blanc is a delightfully honeyed, citrusy substitute for dry vermouth in a Martini. Of course, you can always just have it on the rocks.
These are two of the classic anise liqueurs created after France’s 1915 ban on absinthe. The timeless long drink is still the best way to consume them: Pour a generous shot into a tall glass and fill three-quarters of the way with cold water. Finish with a couple sturdy ice cubes and sip slowly while you watch the sunset.
Unlike many well-known French products, this one doesn’t have a centuries-long history: It was first released in 2007. Up to 1,000 elderflower blossoms go into a bottle, and each bottle is numbered for the year the flowers were picked. Bartenders have come up with countless ways to use the liqueur in cocktails. A St-Germain Cocktail is one of the simplest.