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Nov 7, 2011 05:48 PM

American aperitifs for French friends

I've invited our neighbors, a couple from France, over for dinner. I'm serving a U.S.-themed menu (no way am I cooking French), including shrimp cocktail, pot roast, mashed potatoes, and apple crisp.

But I'm unsure about U.S.-themed drinks. Does anyone have suggestions on a good before-dinner drink? Or an after-dinner one?

I'd love to hear what you think would work!

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  1. I think the choice would largely depend upon what you and your guests like and how challenging a cocktail you want.

    If you like whiskey, the Scofflaw cocktail was created at Harry's American Bar in Paris in 1924. It incorporates rye (American), dry vermouth (French), lemon, and grenadine. There are many ratios. I chose to use the one from Ted Haigh's book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. It not particularly challenging (for good or bad) and it bridges the Atlantic with it's history and ingredients. Be sure to buy or make good grenadine -- that fluorescent red crap will ruin it.

    If you and your guests are very adventurous, I might go for A Moment of Silence. It also has rye and includes American apple brandy (for which the French have, of course calvados). It includes two Italian amari (Averna and a rinse of Campari) plus a big dose of Caribbean Angostura bitters. It is a fabulous drink -- sort of a Manhattan for the brave (despite having no vermouth).

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    1. Part of this depends upon where you live (i.e.: what's available in one place may not be available in another); part of it depends upon the couple themselves -- are they more into spirits or into wine?

      Do you want to serve a California sparkling wine as an aperitif before dinner, or are you thinking more along the line of cocktails?

      1. Nothing beats a good Manhattan.

        1. Well, you could try American versions of typically French drinks. Methode Champenoise sparkling wine (don't call it champagne) like Domaine Chandon or Cuvee Mumm. Or a brandy made in an alambic still (as cognac is) like Germain Robyn. Or you could go the American ingredients route - something based on Tequila or Mezcal - or something based on chocolate or chili peppers - there's a few drinks out there that use that. Then there's a whole raft of bourbon based drinks - I'd use a non-harsh bourbon like Makers Mark rather than something like Wild Turkey.

          1. Excellent suggestions--thank you so much! If I can find a good sparkling wine here in small town Florida, I will try that for an aperitif. But most likely it's cocktails. Our friends like both wine and spirits.

            I have no experience with American rye. Any suggestions on a good brand?

            1 Reply
            1. re: debclark

              In a small town, you may have to take whatever rye is available. Even economical ryes, like Jim Beam (in the yellow bottle), aren't bad. If Old Overholt is the only one available, it's okay too. I would prefer any of Rittenhouse, Wild Turkey (rye, not their more popular bourbons), Bulleit (excellent), Redemption, etc.

              You can use it to make either a Manhattan (rye, sweet vermouth and a dash of bitters) or the Scofflaw.

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