How many French-made spirits are behind your bar? If you don’t have a collection of French gin and vodka, it’s time to add a few.
Even casual drinkers know that France has a long history of quality distillation and spirits production. From cognacs and brandies to champagne and even white spirits like Blanche Armagnac, gin and vodka. “Most people would be surprised to know that in the Cognac region they actually produce more vodka than Cognac,” shared Dan Cooney, of Heavenly Spirits. “Whether it’s from wheat, rye or French fingerling potatoes grown only on the island of Ré, the French know how to make great vodka.”
Dan and Christine Cooney, the owners of Heavenly Spirits, have been working to promote French spirits of all types with their importing company. “One of the distinct differences in French Gin,” Cooney shared, “is that they tend more toward innovation and contemporary styling then some of the more traditional London style gins. Instead of relying only on the juniper, French producers look to bring in additional ingredients or botanical variants like Yuzu citrus, whole lemons, seaweed or ginger.”
As importers and specialists in French spirits, the Cooney’s have some tips for tasting a vodka or gin before trying it in a cocktail. To start, try your spirit room temperature and neat. This tasting process allows you to understand the true essence of the spirit. Next, taste it neat but straight from a freezer. When chilled, you will be able to detect the viscosity and oiliness of the spirit. Once you have had the chance to get to know the spirit in detail, you can begin to mix it in cocktails to see how it plays with other ingredients and whether it holds its own.
What should bartenders know about working with these spirits? “Bartenders should know that these French-made spirits represent some of the finest white spirits available in the world,” noted Cooney. “As they were created by craft producers driven by both deep passions and extensive distillation knowledge. They should be appreciated and enjoyed, like life itself.”
Ready to find your next favorite spirit? Try these French-made Gins and Vodkas.
Diplôme Dry Gin
Crafted and distilled in Dijon, France, Diplôme is made using the same Original 1945 recipe that the brand perfected during WWII. After the war, Diplôme became the official gin of American Army officers stationed throughout Europe. The spirit itself is carefully made using a traditional “bain marie” method that gives the line its round, rich taste. The gin opens with a bouquet of blossoming cherry tree, clove, delicate juniper, and coriander leading into a perfumed mouth of subtle nutty oils, zesty grapefruit, and an infusion of lavender.
- 1 1/2 oz. Diplôme Dry Gin
- 3/4 oz. Creme de Framboise Jules Theuriet-Briottet
- 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 1 egg white
- 1 tsp. simple syrup
- lemon slice
- cocktail cherry
Preparation: Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Shake a few times, then add ice and shake until nice and foamy. Pour into a chilled couple glass. Garnish with lemon slice and cocktail cherry.
Made from top quality French wheat distilled five times in a triple pot still, Bistro Vodka is a clean and light expression with a perfectly balanced flavor profile. The highly refined nose leads to a slight floral profile with a fresh finish. On the palate the vodka opens clean, crisp, and delicate with soft aromatics and a light lingering finish. The award-winning vodka is housed in a stunning bottle that classes up any back-bar.
Bistro Dry Martini
- 2 oz. Bistro Vodka
- 1/2 oz. Dry Vermouth
- 2 dashes of orange bitters
Preparation: Mix ingredients with ice and stir for 25 seconds. Pour into martini glass and garnish with a lemon peel.
Harnessing the richness of the sea, Rétha Oceanic Gin uses an innovative recipe with fucus algea harvested by hand on the Île de Ré. Juniper and ginger bring fresh and powerful notes, but what sets the gin apart is the maritime touches of iodine and salt followed by refreshing citrus and lemon. The result is an invigorating spirit with a bold, yet easy to mix flavor profile.
By: Rory Caviness of Boston, MA
- 1 1/4 oz. Rétha Oceanic Gin
- 1/2 oz. Lillet Blanc
- 1/2 oz. Claque-Pepin Calvados Organic Vielle Reserve
- 1/4 oz. Luxardo Maraschino
Preparation: Stir in a mixing glass with ice until cold. Strain up into a chilled coupe and garnish with a slice of dehydrated pineapple.
Rétha La Blanche Vodka
This artisanal vodka begins its life with a maceration and then double distillation of wheat alcohol with Alcmaria potatoes, grown only on the island of Ré. This distillation process is borrowed from cognac production and preserves the richness of terroir and the natural flavors. The Alcmaria potatoes are considered a culinary treasure thanks to their small size and sweet flavor with notes of chestnut and hazelnut. The potatoes bring a rich aroma, sweet notes, and round mouthfeel.
By @monsieurmoutardedijon in collaboration with @briottetliqueur
- 1 1/3 oz. Rétha La Blanche Vodka
- 2/3 oz. Blackberry cream Briottet
- 1/3 oz. Raspberry Eau de Vie
- 2/3 oz. Fresh lime juice
- Top with ginger beer
Preparation: Add in a pre-chilled glass filled with ice, mix garnish with a lime wheel and serve
Made from a distillation of juniper berries enhanced with yuzu, coriander, licorice, and Szechuan pepper, Yu Gin is a refreshing expression perfect for drinking alone or in cocktails. Yu Gin is inspired by Japanese tradition; the brand used this inspiration for the bottle design, which is reminiscent of a Zen Garden.
I Love Yu
- 2 1/2 oz. Yu Gin
- 1/2 oz. yuzu juice
- 1/2 oz. simple syrup
Preparation: Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake. Strain into chilled glass. Garnish with a yuzu lemon wheel.