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July 15, 2010


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WINE & SPIRITS

In Full Bloom
By Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave

THESE FLORAL-INFUSED SPIRITS
ARE RIPE FOR THE PICKING

Click on any photo below for a larger gallery view.

Serious oenophiles have always put a premium on floral aromas, waxing poetic on the iris, violet and lily notes in Beaujolais crus; on the wildflowers in Condrieu; the hints of jasmine, rose and geranium in white Torrontes from Argentina. Lately cocktail enthusiasts have also been chasing a floral finish. And spirit producers have been responding in kind by introducing a new arsenal of flower-powered elixirs.

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Three years ago the artisans behind G'Vine gin kicked off the trend with the launch of Floraison, a voluptuous spinoff made with an infusion of grapevine flowers (picked before they grow into grapes). I first tasted this delicate gin—distilled in Cognac in southwestern France—in an aromatic purple cocktail whipped up by New York mixologist Junior Merino. The drink, also made with Crème Yvette (absent from the market since the '60s, but recently reintroduced), featured a double dose of floral liqueur that made it a remarkably fragrant flower bomb.

And this year, at the start of the summer, another entrant from Cognac, Esprit de June, squeezed its way into bars. This floral spirit is also made with vine flowers—a complex blend of Ugni Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon blossoms. Fragrant and exotic, it mixes well in cocktails with a dash of G'Vine.

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Beefeater's Summer Edition, another recent launch inspired by the garden, adds elderflower, black currant and hibiscus to the gin's classic botanicals. Its soft citrus notes and summer bouquet entranced me when I first tasted it last spring at a preview gin symposium. Though a chill still hung in the air, the gin itself—mixed with tonic and ice—transported me to cocktail hour at my summer rental in Water Mill (or, better yet, a courtside seat at Wimbledon).

But it's not just the French and the Brits who have the floral market covered—tequila, too, has entered the field. Rosangel Gran Centenario, a reposado tequila infused with hibiscus flowers, is made in small batches out of Highland blue agave. The rose-hued spirit adds an intriguing perfume to iced margaritas.

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