I have been resisting buying a bottle of creme de violette for quite a while. As I noted in my write-up of arsenic and old lace, I didn’t want to splash out on a bottle of liqueur that I might not like.
The answer? Make a close approximation, on the cheap, in my own kitchen.
There is little on the internet about making creme de violette in the home, so I decided to make it up. There seems to be nobody selling freeze-dried violet petals in the UK (not that Google knows about anyway), so I had to improvise. The traditional ingredients of a liqueur are alcohol, sugar and your flavouring of choice; these latter two can be combined using either crystallised violet petals (typically used for cake and confectionary decoration) or parma violets. The success of either will rely heavily on how much sugar there is to flavour, but who will know until I try?
So, I ordered both from ebay, with a view of chucking them straight into vodka to make my very own, quick-and-dirty, creme de violette.
The first to arrive was the crystallised violet petals; armed with these and a 20cl bottle of vodka, I started making things up. I bought 100g of the crystallised petals, but thought I had better take it easy – better too little than too much, you can always add more. I added 25g of the crystallised violets to the vodka and shook.
Within seconds, I had something that looked like meths (methylated spirits). Within 30 minutes, all of the sugar had dissolved and there were naked petals floating around in an intensely purple liquid. I thought the sugar would have taken up much of the flavour, so I poured the mix through a coffee filter and sampled.
What can I say? I am glad I stopped at 25g. The flavour is distinctly violet and while sweet, isn’t as cloying as I thought it might be. Given that I haven’t watered this down, this is pretty much a 40% ABV liqueur – more like sweet violet vodka. This is going to add a punch to cocktails. I have never tried proper creme de violette neat, so I have no idea how this compares.
So, in less than an hour (including popping out to the shops for the vodka) I had some creme de violette; it was obviously time to mix up a few drinks and kick back for the evening.
First up was the Blue Moon
2 ounces gin
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz crème de violette
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake (I stirred) and strain into a cocktail glass.
This is an incredible dark-blue colour – the sort of colour the sky goes during the early stages of pre-dawn when the night has only just begun to lighten. The lemon and violet balance very well and, while floral, the drink has a deep and sincere bite. Very drinkable.
Second was the…
1 3/4 oz Gin
1/2 oz St Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1/2 oz Creme de Violette
Soda (fill glass)
The method was lacking from this one, but it looked like a “chuck it all in a glass over ice” type of drink.
This maintained the rich blue colour but it was very washed out; an intriguing looking drink at least. In hindsight I would have added less soda and more gin, but nevertheless it was a clear, refreshing drink that had the barest hint of alcohol. The elderflower and violet were gentle, delicate accents to the soda water. Pleasing, but don’t waste your best gin on it.
I am not sure about the label “belmont”. There seems to be many sources that list the belmont as gin, raspberry syrup and cream (sounds interesting too). Others use creme de yvette rather than creme de violette.
Third was the…
1 1/2 oz Gin
1 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1/2 oz Lemon juice
2 dash Crème de Violette
Twist of lemon peel to garnish
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice. Stir and strain into a cocktail glass.
This was a delightful sea-blue colour with hints of green about it. It was a rather sweet and intense drink and may not appeal to many, but it has a rather surprising after-bite that leaves me wanting more. Not one for the seeker of delicate drinks.
2 oz gin
1 oz Lillet Blanc
1 teaspoon crème de violette
2 dashes orange bitters
lemon twist as garnish
Stir over ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Add the garnish.
Now this hit the spot. A beautiful pale sea-green, the addition of Lillet Blanc and orange bitters really made this drink come alive. Delicate and complex with a cracking mix of citrus and floral with neither dominating. It is basically a vermouth-heavy martini with a splash of violet.
So, there we have it. For relatively little investment, I had an evening on the creme de violette cocktails. When the homemade hooch runs dry, I might even invest in a production bottle.