I finally tracked down a bottle of crème de violette in Auckland today*. This ingredient has been eluding me for a long time now. Some years ago I sampled the Benoit Serres version in Shanghai. It was never actually sold there, but Mr. Benoit Serres attended a Shanghai food and wine show seeking an importer and I was able to sample the stuff and have a chat with him. Besides his crème de violette he also makes a couple of interesting herbal and nut infused liqueurs – I seem to remember an unusual almond infused cognac.
Today I came across a crème de violette from Briottet. The Briottet version seems fuller flavored then how I remember the Benoit Serres. The Benoit Serres had a subtle (i.e. diluted) cognac base with a violet overlay, and may have been relatively high proof (25%?). The Briottet seems more like intense violet on a base of lowish proof (18%) neutral alcohol. It has a strong aroma, happily more reminiscent of a flower shop (or maybe potpourri) than a soap factory. On tasting you get a rich, smooth, fairly deep violet taste that lingers on the tongue. The finish is really quite long, and somehow never turns to soap. While I cannot taste anything besides violet, I still would not call the taste one dimensional.
I am hardly a crème de violette expert. I have only ever tasted two brands, and those several years apart. I may completely wrong about this comparison. Both Briottet and Benoit Serres seem to be good products. However, I think Briottet may pack a little more power and be more suited to mixed drinks. Most drinks using creme de violette require only small quantities, so you want to use a reasonably intense product.
After tasting some of the liqueur straight the obvious thing to do was to make an original recipe Aviation. (more…)