SNACKS: TIPPLES OF THE AESTHETES: PARFAIT D’AMOUR

With interest in cocktails having grown during the past ten years, many liqueurs, cordials, aperitifs and digestifs forgotten during the days of Long Island Ice Teas have been rediscovered. Many of these — maraschino, sloe gin, apricot brandy, creme de cacao — are of enormous use in making cocktails. Others — kümmel, pimento dram, batavia arrack, Swedish Punsch — have their place in more than a few recipes.

Then you’ve got Parfait Amour (or, Parfait d’Amour), one of the last survivors of a variety of mostly European liqueurs developed in the last half of the 19th century, during the Belle Epoque. By all indications these were all sweet and flowery; intended evidently to appeal to the female consumer, at the time a growing segment of the liquor market. The French produced examples named Old Woman’s Milk, La Liqueur des Belles, and Maiden’s Cream; in the US, Creme Yvette was the prime example; and the Dutch went all out, proffering libations such as Rose Without Thorns, Illicit Love, The Longer the Better*, and Parfait Amour.

Women of the period, all the same, appeared to prefer absinthe when given the opportunity.

The drink, however, did find success in other contemporary circles.

Parfait Amour can be blue or purple, depending. When you first lift the cordial glass to your lips, and take the first sip, you’re hit with a variety of impressions. It is viscous, it is sweet. You assailed by flavors — among them vanilla, roses, almond, coriander, orange-flower water, and more. Essentially, the great taste of flower-wrapped bubble gum in a glass, with a bouquet reminiscent of Barbie perfume.

Sip it, and imagine yourself in a dream, scampering over cyclopean ruins of lost races with youthful cohorts; start working on a drama involving a group of corpses in a scenic tomb, arguing among themselves who is the most rotted; figure out ways to redesign your drawing room entirely in black, mauve, and silver. Or, get up, stumble out the door, and take your lobster for a walk.

(There are those who claim Parfait Amour is the drink the wee folk give unsuspecting victims to lure them to step inside their faery rings, where they’ll never be seen again; it is likely these people have downed too much Parfait Amour.)

The only semi-comparable liqueurs are Creme De Violette,  and the delicious Creme Yvette, which was out of production for several decades until recently — it is more solid, tangier, and has a lovely reddish-purple color to it (evidently the older version was a lovely purple).

While there are a few cocktails that use Creme de Violette and Creme Yvette wisely, here is but one cocktail which in theory does the same with parfait amour, the Jupiter; but, it is a cocktail that requires the precision of a chemist, to mix. Don’t try it at home unless you want to drink an entire bottle of gin and entire bottle of Parfait Amour, practicing. But, trust us: you don’t.

*Brandies and Liqueurs of the World, Hurst Hannum & Robert S. Blumberg, Doubleday 1976, p. 150.