Tempus Fugit Spirits, an absinthe and liqueur importer in Petaluma, has just released Liqueur de Violettes, a floral liqueur based on a 19th century recipe made from -- surprise! -- violets. Those purple petals also happen to be hand picked in the Côte d'Azur, a.k.a. the French Riviera, and so we expect to soon be sipping all kinds of trendy bar concoctions with names like "Le Spring de Violettes" and "Eau de Baroness de Rothschild" (surely there are some violets somewhere on the massive family estate in the Côte d'Azur). In this case, we really do hope to see similar
clever cheesy names around town soon, as this classic liqueur has earned its tasting rights to be on those Happy Hour menus. Turn the page for more, including our tasting notes.
Technically speaking, Liqueur de Violettes is not the same thing as crème de violette. A crème is typically dubbed as such because it contains more sugar than a liqueur, not because it contains, well, cream. The latter would be a cream liqueur. And yet that crème de violette versus liqueur de violette sugar dosage designation is subjective, so you very well might find a crème that hovers around same glycemic index as a liqueur. Nor are all violet liqueurs made from fresh flowers -- many are artificially flavored and colored. But until recently, you really couldn't get faux or real violet liqueurs in the U.S., so all that really doesn't matter. Confused? So are we. Stick to the all-natural versions of either and you'll come out ahead.
As for Tempus Fugit's Liqueur de Violettes, its pink-ish hue comes naturally from those violets, and the sweetness has been tamed so it doesn't overwhelm. It has a mysteriously alluring floral flavor, almost like you're sipping some sort of forbidden nectar or drinking in the smell one of those crazy expensive, crystal bottle-enclosed perfumes sitting on some Victorian dressing table in a Paris penthouse at this very moment.
By that, we don't mean this liqueur is in your face offensive in the way that too much perfume follows a person around a room like a puppy dog. Here, the flavor is more the equivalent of that impossibly elegant woman who, after breezing around the cocktail party with just a hint of lingering eau de parfum, convinces you once and for all that yes, there must be "perfume consultants" who get paid top dollar to show their clients how to master these sorts of "wearing makeup without looking like you're wearing makeup" oxymorons.
And so, until every suspender-clad bartender in town decides Liqueur de Violettes is their next true vintage spirit love -- Rothman and Winter also imports a great crème de violette, by the way -- you can try it in classic cocktails like the Aviation (not to be confused with the gin of the same name). A word of caution: Like that spritz of perfume, a little goes a long way.
Liqueur de Violettes is currently in stock at K&L Wine Merchants for about $28 for 750 ml; expect to see it in more local specialty spirits shops in the coming weeks.