Like spring, crème de violette is now making a gentle, welcome return.
A light and delicate floral liqueur, crème de violette is the bottled embodiment of the tiny purple petals it's made from - a liquid distillation of violets' deep color and ethereal scent. There is a refreshing trueness in the cordial's flavor: at only 20 percent alcohol, it's free from both the boozy heaviness and cloying sweetness found in many liqueurs. It's pure flower.
But until very recently, this small treasure was all but lost to North American drinkers. Once a common ingredient in pre-Prohibition cocktails such as the Aviation, the Attention, and the Blue Moon, crème de violette slipped quietly out of sight when Crème Yvette, the best-known brand in the U.S., ceased production several decades ago. Although still available abroad, crème de violette soon became as elusive to Americans as absinthe.
But with the recent resurgence of classic cocktails - and cocktail ingredients – crème de violette, along with absinthe, is making a comeback. Last year, spirits importer Haus Alpenz brought the Austrian-made Rothman & Winter version to the U.S., and the liqueur has since been gaining steady ground on the Coasts. It's also available from a number of merchants online.
Lovely in itself when diluted with still or sparkling water, crème de violette also shines in the Blue Moon, lending the gin-based cocktail a subtle perfume and pale, night-sky luminance:
Blue Moon Cocktail (adapted from The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David Embury, via Haus Alpenz)
(makes one cocktail)
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce crème de violette
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass.
(Image: Nora Maynard)