Inspiration is a funny thing. Sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t. One minute it’s nowhere to be seen, the next it’s sneaking up behind you and tapping you on the shoulder.
You can be wandering down the grocery store aisles with no direction, then suddenly, you’re standing in front of a bundle of fresh thyme, and something inside you starts buzzing. You remember that French liquor people keep telling you about, look down at the grapefruit in your cart, and without a doubt in your mind you know exactly what you’re doing.
Sometimes you have to work hard to find inspiration. You squint your eyes and scrunch up your nose, and struggle to pull whispy strands of it out of thin air. Then sometimes, it just happens, without you ever even trying.
This little drink came together out of a combined love for grapefruit and thyme, and an intense curiosity to try Lillet, a blend of French wine and citrus liqueur. I needed an excuse to buy a bottle, and thus was born my new favorite cocktail.
With one of these in your hand, you’ll feel like you’re sipping on summer. Or at least, very late spring while the grapefruit are still sweet, but the whether is hot and calling for a beverage with ice.
I’ve never been a big drinker, but mixing cocktails is fast becoming one of my favorite things to do. There are so many flavors and variations to play with, I can’t help but love experimenting with all the different combinations.
When I was little, my brother and I used to make “potions” out of all kinds of household items. We had little glass viles and jars, filled with everything from dish soap and ground-up crayons, to dandelion leaves and glitter. Whatever concoctions we could come up with. They weren’t edible, of course, but we liked to pretend they possessed special powers, like they could make us invisible or give us the ability to fly.
As an adult, I find a strong nostalgia in mixing flavors. Standing over a simmering pot of thyme simple syrup brings me back to my childhood fantasies of creating something entirely new. And better yet, I get to taste it when I’m done.
I was first introduced to Lillet by my friend Carey, in a guest post she wrote for me last year. I hadn’t heard of it up till then, but her description of it stuck with me. Lillet comes in three varieties: blanc, rose, and rouge. I went with the blanc for this cocktail, and after just one sip fell in love with it’s light, sweet flavor.
In addition to the grapefruit, thyme, and lillet, I added just a splash of gin. The piney scent paired perfectly with the herbaceous thyme and sweet grapefruit, and added a nice clean backdrop to the other flavors. I had initially intended to finish this cocktail with a bit of club soda or tonic water, but found to my surprise it didn’t need it. Feel free to add some, though, if you’re in the mood for something fizzy.
In an attempt to be all artsy, I wanted really badly to come up with unique name for this cocktail. So far I’ve only thought of a few titles, all of which include some kind of play on words. (See: “A Wrinkle In Thyme” and “Lillet of the Valley.”) Apparently my brain is stuck on puns, so I thought I’d ask all of you: what do you think I should call it? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, and I’ll name this drink after the best one.
Grapefruit, Thyme, and Lillet Cocktail
Ingredients per drink
2 oz. fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
1 1/2 oz. lillet blanc, chilled
1 oz. dry gin
1 oz. thyme simple syrup, chilled (recipe below)
Wedges of grapefruit and sprigs of fresh thyme, for garnish
Optional: splash of club soda or tonic water, to taste
For the thyme simple syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
8-10 sprigs fresh thyme
For the thyme simple syrup:
1. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil, then add the sprigs of thyme and remove from the heat. Let steep for 5-15 minutes. (The longer the syrup steeps, the stronger the flavor will be. Taste the syrup every five minutes to determine how strong you want it.)
2. Strain syrup into a clean jar, and discard thyme. Store in the fridge. Syrup will keep for at least 3-4 days.
For the drink:
1. In a cocktail shaker, combine the grapefruit juice, lillet, gin, and simple syrup. Add ice, and shake hard until well chilled.
2. Pour into a chilled glass with ice, and garnish with a wedge of fresh grapefruit and a couple sprigs of thyme. Optionally, top the glass with a little club soda or tonic water, to taste. Serve immediately.