Tuesday, November 13, 2007

R& W Creme de Violette Redux, and a Note on Storage

In my earlier post, I wrote that I think the Miclo Liqueur de Violette is superior to the Rothman & Winter Creme de Violette. I now wish to update my views on the R&W (pic taken from the Haus Alpenz website).

The R&W liqueurs (along with the other Haus Alpenz spirits) are now invading Chicago, so I've started seeing them. In fact, I bought a bottle of the Apricot Liqueur, which is fantastic. I got a bottle of the Batavia Arrack in SF, although I've not yet experimented with it.

Tasting Redux
I had another taste of the Violette at The Violet Hour last week, and it was very good. Complex, not too sweet, with a nice lingering violet flavor. I also had a cocktail with it on Saturday night with some friends, and it was delightful then as well. It really shined in the cocktails. The key seems to be that both of these bottles were brand new, just opened. The bottle we tried in San Francisco (both in a cocktail and straight) had been there for awhile, and the bartender we talked with wasn't a big fan, so I don't think it was used very often.

To be fair, we've also noticed changes over time with the Miclo. I went back and revisited a bottle I opened on Labor Day here (early Sept. for those not in the US), and it has already changed color some and the violet flavor has declined some. What's left is on its way to a sweet, nondescript liqueur. We keep it now only to see what else might happen to it. I have another new bottle on hand for when I'm ready to embark on a Violette fest.

What to Do, What to Do
The key may be this: like any liqueur (or vermouth, etc.) that is not above a certain proof, it should be used quickly or else refrigerated. If it is not, the flavor will decline, and the spirit could potentially go bad.

I think this happens fairly often, and its a mystery to me why it doesn't get talked about more. Many a bartender/bar owner I've met uses only economy-sized bottles of vermouth, even though they rarely pour it, and they don't refrigerate it. It seems like manufacturers don't do enough to tell people how to handle these products either. Some products say something on the label, but many don't.

Anyone else have any stories with spoiled spirits? I'm thinking of a bad experience with a cream liqueur many years ago that enlightened me to the need for refrigeration...


erik_flannestad said...

I think any liqueur or spirit flavored by simple maceration will continue to evolve over time, even in sealed bottles.

Unless the spirit or liqueur is distilled and the majority of the organic compounds removed, I don't see how anything else is possible, even if we are talking about hundreds or thousands of years.

Even with distilled spirits, there has to be a continuum, with freeze distilled hard cider on one end and the nearly chemically pure ethanol and water of vodka on the other.

~Sonja~ said...

Hi Erik, thanks for the comment. I know you're right, but it makes me cringe a bit thinking about some of the bottles sitting around at liquor stores that have been there for eons. People might not like something that's new to them, but it may just be an old bottle that doesn't taste how it was intended to taste because its been sitting there forever. Same thing happens in the liquor cabinet at home. Its interesting that unlike food, there aren't any rules for expiration dates, etc. with spirits. I imagine that's because most of them won't spoil or make you sick, they just might not taste the same.

I recently saw a bottle at an old liquor store here in Chicago that said it was bottled in East Germany, so I know its been there for at least 20 years. I thought about buying it, but it was only 50 or 60 proof, so I'm sure its a shadow of its former self by now.

Troy said...

I bought a bottle of Vya sweet vermouth to try out on Manhattans. I did my best to keep it fresh. I went so far as to vacuum pump it, and keep it refrigerated. I used it several times, but I noticed about after a week that it lost some of its luster. However, it was still great in the cocktails.