During the warmer months, the margarita is the classic, fail-safe cocktail. Savvy foodies and party hosts are well aware that Grand Marnier, the fabled liqueur with its subtle yet sophisticated blend of Cognac brandy and orange essences, can elevate even the most basic recipe. Given its sunny disposition, it can also add dimension and balance to other cocktails and spirits, as well as deliver a tangy lift to salads, seafood, chicken and pretty much any dish that needs a touch of summery freshness.
Since its 1880, creation by Louis-Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle, in fact, it has proven so versatile that new expressions have entered the cocktail lexicon and the home bar. However, it could be argued that serious Grand Marnier enthusiasts are in for a real treat this summer. Grand Marnier Cuvee Louis-Alexandre VSOP ($69.99) has arrived just in time to add extra flavor and excitement to summer food and drink menus, even on the home entertaining front. The Cuvée Louis Alexandre VSOP is a nod to Paris during the La Belle Époque, exemplified by the construction of the era-defining Eiffel Tower, the Paris Métro and the Palais Garnier.
The new expression was created by master blender Patrick Raguenaud, President of the Professional National Cognac Bureau, as a beautiful, complex blend featuring notes of orange with nuances of citrus fruit flavors, softened by notes of oak and a touch of vanilla.
Cuvée Louis-Alexandre joins the ranks of the brand’s cuvée range, distinguished by higher concentrations of cognac and blends of exotic bitter orange. Cuvée Louis-Alexandre is made up of 82 percent cognac and 18 percent orange liqueur with a flavor profile of candied orange and macerated citrus fruit softened by notes of oak and a touch of vanilla.The new expression was created by master blender Patrick Raguenaud, President of the Professional National Cognac Bureau, as a beautiful, complex blend featuring notes of orange with nuances of citrus fruit flavors, softened by notes of oak and a touch of vanilla.
Photo by Aleksei Isachenko / Shutterstock
To achieve the final flavor profile and aromas, Raguenaud blended select cognacs from the finest growing areas in the Cognac region and are carefully aged the spirit in Tronçais and Limousin oak casks in Bourg-Charente. Attentively selected eaux-de-vie brought into the recipe adds adding a lively and intense profile and the subtle essence of highly aromatic bitter oranges further distinguishes the VSOP from the other expressions in the portfolio.
“Cuvée Louis Alexandre is an exquisite liqueur and a fitting tribute to Louis-Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle,” he explains, “I was inspired by his fearless drive to push boundaries and create something truly unique that also ensures we continue to twist tradition. While Grand Marnier Cordon Rogue and Cuvée Louis-Alexandre are both born out of Louis-Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle’s original 1880 recipe, the latter’s VSOP distinction speaks to its longer aging process and complex flavor profile better suited for experiencing neat or over a single large ice cube.”
With so many orange and citrus liqueurs and spirits available at every price range, it may be tempting to try something new. However, Raguenaud says if you want consistently every time you serve cocktails requiring an orange liqueur, its probably going to be a safe bet to stick with what you and your guests know. Also, it is wise to read labels to have an understanding of what separates a premium spirit from a lower quality one, including such terms as VSOP and XO.
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“When reading the labels, there are a few specific markings that are useful to memorize,” he says. “VSOP, as you’ll find on the Cuvée Louis-Alexandre bottle, refers to a liqueur aged at least four years. The XO designation on Cuvée 1880 and Cuvée du Centenaire identify blends that aged six years or longer, imparting a rich, complex flavor profile. Also, you need to know what constitutes a cognac. While it is a type of brandy, it can only be produced in the Cognac region of France following strict methods regulated by French law. There is a carefully defined period of distillation and a minimum aging period that must take place within French oak barrels.”
“When explaining your choice of spirits in recipes to party guests, it helpful to note that Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge is blend of nearly equal parts cognac and exotic bitter orange liqueur, easily sipped neat or mixed into a cocktail, while Cuvée Louis-Alexandre features a higher concentration of cognac, ideal for those with an established taste for the spirit.”
When entertaining, you’ll want to whet your guests’ curiosity with the origin story of Grand Marnier. Louis-Alexandre developed the liqueur as the perfect thing to serve friends during the Parisian soirées of the era. Louis-Alexandre’s friend César Ritz was moved to suggest he give Grand Marnier its current name, as such a grand creation deserved a “Grand” name. “ Word of mouth and consumption soon grew throughout the city. Eventually, the President of the Republic of France was compelled to award Louis-Alexandre’s the “Legion d’Honneur.”
“Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge and Cuvée Louis-Alexandre are perfect complements to one another on a home bar as each offers its own, nuanced flavor profile and can be enjoyed in a variety of format,” explains Raguenaud who under most circumstances recommends enjoying Cuvée Louis-Alexandre neat or over a large ice cube.
For the entertainer who hopes to offer their guest a twist on a classic cocktail, Cordon Rogue is the key ingredient for creating a “Grand” version of the classic Sidecar or French 75.”
LE GRAND LOUIS
2 ounce Cuvée Louis-Alexandre
¾ ounce Dry French Vermouth
Dash of Orange Bitters
Garnish w/ lemon twist
1. Add all ingredients to a mixing glass, fill with ice.
2. Stir until cold.
3. Strain into a Nick & Nora glass or cocktail glass.
4. Garnish with a lemon twist.
According to internationally renowned bartender Tony Abou Ganim, there are plenty of ways to entertain and celebrate with the original and do Louis-Alexandre proud.
Anne Louise Marquis
2 ounce Cuvée Louis-Alexandre
1 bar spoon Orgeat (a French almond syrup)
1 ounce lemon
Spray with orange flower water
Stir in a shaker and serve up in a tumbler or cognac snifter.
2 ounce Zignum Silver
6 basil leaves
4 lemon wedges
½ ounce Grand Marnier
1 tsp brown sugar
1. Muddle basil, lemons and sugar in mixer.
2. Add all ingredients and shake.
3. Serve in a 7-ounce rocks glass with salted rim.
4. Garnish with lemon and basil.
Grand Marnier is a natural partner or ingredient for a variety of light savory and sweet dishes. A Grand Marnier reduction mixed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a squeeze of lime becomes a wonderful salad dressing, a base for ceviche, or a marinade for salmon or poultry. It can be blended into fresh whipped cream and used as a topper for fresh fruit or part of a simple orange sorbet recipe.
FETE DE LA LIBERTE
1 ounce Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
.5 ounce grapefruit juice
.5 ounce lemon juice
.25 ounce honey syrup 1:1
5 dashes of Bitter Truth Rose Water
3 mint leaves
Dry Sparkling wine, preferably French
Garnished with dried rose buds