Last year when we were in Runaway Bay, Jamaica I overheard someone ask for a Yellow Bird with a liqueur named Galliano in it. I didn’t pursue the origin or flavors of it then nor did I actually have one of the drinks. Since then I have come across drink recipes and cocktail articles that included Galliano and other new to me ingredients like St. Germain, Fernet-Branca and all sorts of different kinds of bitters. On the sommelier trail now I decided I would seek out some of these items and see what I could do with them.
I found bottles of Galliano and St. Germain at my local state-run liquor stores. We already have a pretty well stocked bar to work from, some fruit juices, club soda and simple syrup around so I stopped there and went home to get to work.
Margot and I have happy hour at home a few Friday’s a month. It is a nice way to wind down from a busy week, spend some quality time together and of course have some drinks. I usually try to have something new planned in advance, which she always loves. Last night was our most recent installment and I think I hit a new high mark with one of the creations.
We started with the Galliano (Wikipedia link). Being so focused on tastes and pairings these days I had to taste the liqueur before I made anything with it to ensure I could recognize its influence in the future. With a strong anise/licorice flavor it certainly isn’t for everyone. The makers of Galliano describe the cordial as being flavored with herbs, roots and spices. A differentiating flavor (from other anise flavored liqueurs like Sambuca) is some vanilla, which I can’t say easily picked up, but it isn’t Sambuca for sure. At 84.6 proof it will give you a kick so be careful!
I recreated the Yellow Bird from Jamaica, which I easily found in my copy of “The Bartenders Bible” in Tropical Drinks section on page 218. We have had Yellow Bird’s on past trips to Jamaica, but those versions did not contain Galliano. If memory serves, I believe apricot liqueur was the interesting ingredient beyond the rum, pineapple and orange juices. We tweaked the recipe slightly, adding some orange juice and simple syrup, both for what ingredients we had and to personal taste.
½ ounce Galliano
½ ounce triple sec
½ ounce orange juice
½ ounce lime juice
2 tsp simple syrup
Combine in shaker with ice, shake and strain into glasses with one ice cube. This drink has a kick and might be a bit strong for casual entertaining. The flavor of the Galliano is there, but much milder than straight up. I can see why this gets requested on hot, humid vacations in Jamaica. I enjoyed the drink, but would mix it up amongst other rum-infused/tropical drinks to experience a range of flavors and levels of strength. Margot enjoyed it, but wouldn’t request it often mainly due to its alcoholic strength and sharp flavors. Fun times!
We moved on to the St. Germain, an elderflower liqueur. I have used elderberries in wine before but I don’t know of ever having an elderflower infused drink. Since I first saw discussions of this and its uses it has been in the back of my mind as a MUST DO!
I went to the cocktail section of the St. Germain web site for some guidance. They have several dozen different drinks listed which is a huge help orienting me to this new ingredient. The spirit by itself is floral and sweet and could easily be drunk without any other influences on the rocks. The fact that this was calling to me makes a lot of sense now. I decided on a modified version of the St-Tropez.
1 part vodka
1 part St. Germain
½ part lemon juice
1 tsp simple syrup
Shake the first three ingredients with ice and strain into glass. Top with club soda and add some ice if desired. This drink is amazing. With a nice blend of citrus and flowers you can’t really tell that there is any alcohol in it, which Margot found out quite easily. With just enough sweetness to prevent any pucker from the lemon it goes down smooth and should be on everyone’s list of a go to cocktail to set a nice mood for warm weather entertaining. We enjoyed our first one with a grilled chicken salad and found that it played nicely with the salad, something needing more consideration.
So once again our Friday happy hours proved to be successful and helped expand our cocktail repertoire, something we enjoying sharing with friend and family when they come calling. I hope this inspires you to try some new things. Post comments with questions about how to craft cocktails or pick drinks for different occasions and people. I am actively looking to enhance my skills and would love to use your challenges to do that.