What is Lillet?
Lillet is the star of this Sparkler, and it’s an apéritif — meaning a wine that is lightly fortified (it’s about 17% ABV) with citrus based spirits.
Lillet is from southern Bordeaux in France, and the apéritif is a blend of fruit and wine infusions. The wines are made from Bordeaux varietals (Reds are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Whites are: Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon). The fruit infusions are primarily citrus liquors, which provide honeyed bright notes to this light and refreshing beverage.
Apéritif! (Ah-pear-teef) A beverage that typically has bitter components, drunk before a meal, to help stimulate the appetite. AKA Chef’s LOVE when guests have apéritifs and come hungry.
You can find Lillet Blanc, Rosé, and Rouge. The Rouge was invented in the ’90s to adhere to American tastes for red wines. Americans veer more towards a sweeter taste profile, so in the ’90s the formula also changed from rather intense (with heavy bitter and heavy sweet components) to a softer profile.
Lillet is so smooth and light that you can drink it all on its own (ideally ice cold or“très foid”). However, it’s also excellent combined with other spirits to create specialty cocktails.
Why Lillet Yuzu Sparkler is my LBD (Little Black Dress) of Apéritifs
I love the ethereal quality of Lillet. It’s the little black dress of apéritifs, in my opinion. Just like a LBD, you can dress it up or dress it down, but either way it’s always sophisticated and un-fussy. You can throw it together and look like a thousand bucks in no time at all.
With this three ingredient cocktail, I’ve increased the citrus component that’s already in Lillet. Think of it like adding a simple pendant necklace to the LBD, or perhaps some sparkly shoes (who doesn’t love a good sparkly sneaker?).
Yes, it’s believed to be a hybrid of oranges and grows in China and Japan (now a few other places too!). Yuzu has a flavor profile like fresh squeezed orange juice meets fresh squeezed lemon juice and a small hint of fresh honeysuckle. Additionally, all of those notes are also in the Lillet, so adding in the Yuzu helps brighten up the spirit in a very delicate way.
You can typically find Yuzu in your grocery store, but don’t confuse Yuzu with Yuzu Ponzu! Yuzu Ponzu has Yuzu in it, along with other ingredients and is used as a dipping sauce.
If you can’t find Yuzu you can make a similar flavor profile by combining fresh squeezed orange juice with lemon juice (start with half a lemon and add 3/4 to equal parts orange juice). This cocktail should be light and refreshing, not too acidic nor too sweet.
The Lillet Yuzu Sparkler Recipe
4oz Lillet Rosé
A Splash of Yuzu
2–3oz Club Soda (or Champagne!)
You can alter this as you like it, sometimes I prefer more Lillet, sometimes I like a more even ratio of club soda to Lillet. Also, feel free to add in more Yuzu if you really like the flavor.
Try it out and let me know what you think! I always love to hear your feedback.