A few years ago, the Lillet company declared a “National Aperitif Day” in honor of their latest product, Lillet Rose. It’s not a bad time of year to do so. Spring feels like a natural time for lighter and less inebriating beverages.
The word aperitif is French and literally means “to open.” The idea is that a short drink will prepare the imbiber for a lovely meal. The original version was created in Turin, Italy by Antonio Carpano in 1786. The next iteration came 60 years later when Joseph Dubonnet added quinine to a herbally infused wine and created, you guessed it, Dubonnet.
Lillet dates back to 1872, when it was known as Kina Lillet. Notable fictional characters James Bond and Hannibal Lecter both enjoyed Kina. Today, the original formula has been reformulated into Lillet Blanc. As I mentioned there is also Lillet Rose and a third version Lillet Rouge which debuted in 1990.
Some classic cocktails calling for Lillet are the Vesper, the Corpse Reviver #2 (a personal favorite) and the 20th Century (a cocktail well deserving of a revival) in the 21st century.