It’s hard to think of a country more romanticized than France. The glittering halls and sweeping gardens of Versailles, the grand monuments and charming streets of Paris, the rustic peaceful countryside, and the glamorous coastline have all been celebrated in movies, books, and music to such a degree that it was hard for me to imagine that my first visit to the country could live up to its reputation. So when I flew to France this year to spend time in Cognac and Paris, I tried to keep my expectations in check. But it wasn’t necessary. France was delightful.
While exploring cognac cellars, castles, and museums was breathtaking, experiencing the food and drink might have been the most exceptional part of my trip. Whether we were enjoying cognac aged for generations paired with caviar, or deceptively simple courses like bread and butter, all of our meals were prepared with exacting care and thoughtfulness. This precision and attention to the importance of good food communicated that the diner was worth this immense effort. Keep your green juice, yoga, and keto, French food is my new definition of self-care.
When I came home, I wanted to take this lesson with me. So I decided to come up with some cocktails and appetizers using only French ingredients that would help me share my French experience with friends at home.
Shopping for French Ingredients
Luckily, finding French ingredients isn’t difficult. My local grocery store had an abundance of excellent options and I found a great selection of high-quality products to work with for developing my recipes.
After I brought my groceries home and laid them out, I came up with appetizer and cocktail ideas: pairing personalized cheese and preserves appetizers with rich and indulgent cognac cocktails.
French Cheese and Preserves Appetizers
Because French cheeses and preserves are held to high standards all I really needed to do was remove their wrapping to make them delicious. I chose 1924 Bleu and Fromager d’Affinois cheeses and served them with some delicious Bonne Maman fig preserves.
Rather than arrange them on a standard cheese plate, I served individual portions of the appetizers in miniature cocktail glasses. It’s not only a very pretty presentation but hey, it’s more sanitary too.
The French Breakast: A Butter-Washed Cognac Cocktail
New units of measurement would need to be developed by scientists to arrive at the amount of butter I consumed during my time in France. And I have no regrets because French butter is one of the most perfect foods out there. As a result, I knew I had to include it in my cocktail. Since my other major food group on the trip was cognac, it only made sense to combine my two loves by making a French butter-washed cognac.
I infused the French butter flavor in the Maison Dudognon Vieille Reserve Cognac with a technique called fat washing. To fat wash with butter, start by melting the butter (I used about a third of a stick) and add it to a cup of cognac. Slosh it around a few times over the course of 6-8 hours, then put your butter and cognac filled container in the freezer. The butter will solidify and freeze in a few days and then all you have to do is fine strain out the fat solids (I recommend using a coffee filter to do a really thorough job). The result is an exquisitely buttery cognac.
Once you’ve made the French butter-washed cognac, it’s time to move on to building the rest of the cocktail.
Pour 2 ounces of butter-washed cognac into a mixing glass 3/4 full of ice.
Next, add an ounce of Lillet (a French fortified wine with a summery sweet profile) and a half an ounce of marmalade syrup to the mixing glass (the marmalade paired with the butter gives the cocktail its pleasant breakfast-y flavor profile). Stir approximately 50 times and then strain into a chilled coupe.
Finally, garnish with a french Palmier cookie and serve.
Whether you choose my recipes or your own, I encourage you to visit your local grocery store, grab some French ingredients, and make yourself something special.
French Breakfast Cocktail Recipe:
- 2 oz French butter-washed cognac
- 1 oz Lillet Blanc
- .5 oz marmalade syrup
- A Palmier cookie
To make the butter washed cognac:
Add one cup of cognac and 1/3 stick of melted French butter to a mason jar. Agitate the mixture every so often for six hours before putting the jar in the freezer. Once the butter has solidified (usually around 24-48 hours) strain out the solids. It’s now ready to use.
To make the marmalade syrup:
Simmer one cup of water and stir in one cup of sugar until the sugar is fully dissolved. Add a jar of French marmalade and stir over low heat until the marmalade is fully mixed in with the syrup. Strain out the solids with a fine mesh strainer and store the marmalade syrup in a mason jar. Allow to reach room temperature before storing the syrup in the fridge.