by Shaun Layton | You always want what you can’t have, and that is especially true when it comes to rare spirits. When it comes to uncommon boozy treats, the situation in BC has improved plenty over the last three or four years (I wish our liquor laws would follow suit), but the the hard to get Hermes Violets remains a tough one. Fellow barman Brad Stanton dropped off this bottle for me a few weeks ago, and I still don’t know how to return the favour
Unless you or a friend are going to Japan anytime soon, good luck on getting your hands on this deep purple liqueur. Even if you do find it online, you will be parting with about the same amount of money as you would when purchasing a certain brand of handbag (the two Hermes are no relation).
Produced by Suntory Japan, Hermes Violets is a liqueur that, like Chartreuse, is named after its colour. This type of creme de viollette is made by macerating violet petals in neutral alcohol and adding sugar. The nose is fresh and floral without being too overbearing. Its called a “creme” because of its silky mouthfeel; no dairy is involved in the process! Some creme de violettes smell like The Body Shop and taste like dollar store scented soap. That isn’t the case with this one. Hermes is a perfectly balanced product; it’s even bearable sipping neat.
Creme de violette is something that’s especially made for cocktails. It can easily overpower a drink. The right amount of citrus, bitters, and base spirit must be balanced accordingly. Even free pouring bartenders will turn and blow the cobwebs off their jigger when concocting classics like the Blue Moon or the Attention.
The best known mixed drink that’s made with violette also happens to be my favourite: The Aviation. It’s as well known in Vancouver bars as other classics like the Last Word or Corpse Reviver #2. When made properly with good ice, a vigorous shake, and a nice chilled glass, it really flies. If you aren’t going to Japan in the near future, Giffard does a decent violette. Also keep an eye out for Rothman & Winter or Bitter Truth. With the amount of floral gins on the west coast, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a local distiller give it a try!
45 ml Aviation gin (For a drier cocktail try Tanqueray 10)
15 ml Luxardo Maraschino
15 ml fresh lemon juice
7.5 ml creme de violette
Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker, add ice, shake HARD. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.