July 29, 2011

Happy Hour at Home: Simplest Gin and St. Germain Cocktail

The first time I had St. Germain was on a renegade vacation. We were due to stay in our vintage-y Napa motor lodge another night, but at the last moment we decided to check out. We threw our bags in the car, and drove on a steep, winding rode through dense wooks to Glen Ellen. There, we ate a greasy spoon breakfast, a prelude to the main event: I spied M.F.K. Fisher’s Last House from across a two-lane highway and at the little memorial to her in town, had my picture snapped next to a portrait of her at a typewriter. My ultimate fan girl moment.

Then we drove on to Sonoma, where the midday sun was beating down hot in the town square. Down a side street, I fell in love with a charming, busting airy restaurant, sat at the bar and ordered a drink. It contained St. Germain, a delicate elderflower liqueur, poured from the most glamorously tall, art deco bottle. There was also some gin, a cucumber spear, and maybe a splash of Lillet or champagne, though the specifics are hazy now. I just remember being so happy there, surrounded by dapper, quick-footed waiters, air-conditioning, the spirit of adventure that came from casting our plans to the wind, and, oh, the smell of cheese.

This is my bare bones attempt to recreate what I think is one of the most cool, crisp, refreshing and ladylike of summer cocktails. Drink this in your garden, when the gals come over to knock croquet balls in their spectator heels and talk about the rakish men they adore. I didn’t really drink this garnished with edible flowers as illustrated in the picture, though wouldn’t that be grand?

I find the St. Germain quite powerful and don’t like to feel like I’m drinking a bouquet. For that reason, I let the gin play star, but experiment with your own proportions; you may like it better with more elderflower liqueur.

Simplest Gin and St. Germain Cocktail
Serves 1

In a cocktail shaker, mix 3 parts gin with 1 part St Germain. Fill a glass with ice and pour cocktail over. Add club soda or seltzer and garnish with a squeeze of lemon.

Mix it up:

  • Add 1 part (or more) Lillet.
  • Mix with sparkling wine instead of club soda.
  • Garnish with edible flowers, cucumber, or mint.
  • Skip the gin; mix 1 part St Germain with 3 parts sparkling wine.
  • Make a twist on the French 75: a St Germain 75
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  • Cadi: Oh my goodness, WHEN were you in my neck of the woods? I just LOVE the Girl and the Fig, and the Glen Ellen Inn right next door. (I’m reading my enthusiasm in this paragraph and thinking we might need to make a trip over the hill soon. We live a half hour away in Alexander Valley!).

    I agree with St. Germain being like drinking a bouquet at times and have a light hand with it when I’ve used it. This application sounds wonderful! And with fresh flowers as garnish? Perfection.

    Here’s to great cocktails and a nice relaxing weekend! Thanks for this one Sarah!4 years ago

  • Julie: Love gin + St. Germain concoctions! My step-father in law always throws a few muddled basil leaves in when he makes them – an excellent, somewhat unexpected addition.

    Happy weekend to you!4 years ago

  • Cadi, This was years ago on our super fun California vacation, and sadly I did not know you then! :) But I am dying to get back. What an enchanting part of the world you like in.

    And yeah, TGIF! I feel like I could use one of these right now… :)4 years ago

  • Meagan: There’s nothing like St. Germain and gin! It adds just the slightest touch of floral sweetness. My latest favorite encounter with St. Germain was at a bar in Nashville, where it was the finishing touch on a cocktail made with gin and grapefruit liqueur. It’s like summer in a glass…4 years ago

  • Kate: My favourite ever!!4 years ago

  • Betsy: I’m thinking you should get on back to me and Cadi’s neck of the woods! Bring some of those vintage drink recipes with you4 years ago

  • Tami -- Teacher Goes Back to School: you’ve pretty much described the ultimate summer cocktail: the white linen served at the shady lady in sacramento (yet another reason to come for a visit!).

    we make these at home on a budget by subbing elderberry flower syrup from ikea. yup, ikea. same-ish idea for a whole lot less.4 years ago

  • Meagan, Mmm…grapefruit. That sounds mighty tempting!

    Kate, Yay!

    Betsy, Squee!

    Tami, I saw a similar idea on designsponge! Buying this was a total splurge, but I’ve always wanted one of those pretty bottles to call my own! :)4 years ago

  • Kate: You inspired us over here in sunny London to crack open the St Germain and inevitably the Chambord joined the party. Lots of pretty bottles and even prettier cocktails.4 years ago

  • Wowza! Chambord and St Germain–now we’re talking!4 years ago

  • Steph H: How funny that you would mention this today of all days.

    Last night my hubby and I went to an event here in Austin at the Austin Museum of Art (AMOA). The event was titled “Cold War & Cocktails” and there was a great boozer, uh, I mean speaker, who addressed the history of cocktails and the coming of age of vodka in the “Mad Men” era. Fascinating stuff!

    I am not a gin drinker (I know, boo! hiss!), but I do love great vodka (like our local Tito’s) and enjoy many of the same kinds of drinks described above just made with vodka (again, boo! hiss!).

    One of my favs is a drink South Congress Cafe makes. It has Vodka, St. Germaine’s, Pear Liquour and a bit of lemonade with muddled mint leaves. Soooooo refreshing on a hot TX afternoon.

    I never knew that St. Germain’s bottle was so gorgeous – gonna have to buy one now!

    Cheers…off to make a cocktail!4 years ago

  • Karen: This sounds fabulous! I’m always on the lookout for a good cocktail :) I’m more of a wine girl myself, but I’m trying to branch out!4 years ago

  • Hilary: Don’t you just love it when a meal, a dish, or in this case, a drink, continues to float up to the surface of your memory and inform future eating/drinking choices? the girl + the fig catered my wedding, and it was HANDS DOWN the best wedding food we’d ever had. Happy summer cocktail-ing!4 years ago

  • Jen: Hee…surprised to see St. Germain in a “thrifty girl’s” cocktail! Just a little in the glass does make an inexpensive bottle of sparkling extra luxurious. One of my favorite things (also sparkling with lychee liqueur)!4 years ago

  • Update: I made these again over the weekend with 1-2 parts Lillet thrown in, too, and I think they were even better.4 years ago

  • Lana: Sarah,
    You are such an old soul. I love it. That’s all. Back to reading, listening to mixes, and drinking a beer that is much to heavy but oddly effervescent for the 70 degree weather we had today. :)4 years ago

  • Lana, That sounds like a perfect way to spend an unseasonably warm day!4 years ago

  • Cooking on Vacation by Sarah McColl - Chocolate & Zucchini: […] but seems like a good idea. Would it be insane to bring a travel size bottle of St. Germain for cocktail hour on the […]1 year ago

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It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.
- Laura Ingalls Wilder