Re-creating Crème Yvette
Rob Cooper of Cooper Spirits International has liqueur running through his veins. As a third generation distiller with family roots at Charles Jacquin et Cie and as the man who launched the critically acclaimed St-Germain Elderflower liqueur, Cooper has set the cocktail world on fire. And recently, he’s been responsible for the long-awaited return of Crème Yvette, an original ingredient in the Aviation that Jacquin produced before discontinuing in 1969. With the relaunch earlier this year, bartenders cheered and instantly embraced it as a cocktail ingredient, so we thought it was time to check in with Cooper and see how things were going:
NCB Mix: You've recently released another cocktail-centric cordial, Crème Yvette, which has seen great acceptance from bartenders. How do you compare reviving this old recipe to the creation of your St-Germain?
Rob Cooper: There was a significant difference in the development of Crème Yvette versus St-Germain. Crème Yvette is a restoration of something that had existed since the late 19th century, and St-Germain was a pure creative expression. St-Germain is a reflection of my own personal vision, and Crème Yvette is simply a dusting off and polishing of a wonderful historic cocktail ingredient.
NCB Mix: What were the difficulties in reviving the old recipe?
RC: The records. There was little historic information at Jacquin regarding Crème Yvette. Fortunately, I found a recipe from the ‘40s in carbon copy paper of the formula. We used the same recipe, but we took the artificial violet color out. It is all natural now and just a blend of the four berry fruits and violet petals.
NCB Mix: What sort of feedback are you getting so far? Do you think Crème Yvette will be able to break out of the cocktail club world to retail the way St-Germain has?
RC: The feedback we have received so far has been stellar. The product is very well made, has a lot of integrity and is relatively unique. That said, I really don’t know how it will do. We have tempered expectations for Crème Yvette. It is mostly an homage to the storied history of cocktails and the recent resurgence of this rich cocktail culture. It is a legendary product that was used during a very important span of cocktail history--the late 19th century to the mid 20th century. We have unearthed some great historic references of Crème Yvette cocktails during that period.
NCB Mix: In general, the last few years haven't been favorable for the cordial business — from top to bottom, the established brands have had a hard time at bars and restaurants. How have you been able to swim against the tide?
RC: We have been very fortunate with St-Germain. It happens to be an unusually high integrity product with an overtly approachable flavor. It is more versatile than any other liqueur on the market and has a high degree of accessibility and usability for a product that is so unique and well made.
NCB Mix: I remember when you were developing St-Germain that you sort of beta-tested it with some people to get input. Is that important in today's bottom-up bar world?
RC: I would say the bar trade has almost top-down influence. These are the people that are often the most educated and therefore have enough foresight and wisdom to give an indication of the potential of a new product. St-Germain was very difficult to produce and took almost five years to develop from idea to launch. We had a lot of time to sprinkle earlier versions around to friends.
NCB Mix: Are there other old cordials or liqueurs waiting to be reawakened?
RC: This is a question best answered by Eric Seed.
NCB Mix: What's your favorite cocktail right now?
RC: I am a big a fan of the Slippery Nipple.