A great classic cocktail, of French origin.
We love exploring classic cocktail books and revisiting classic cocktails, so this week we head back to one of our favorite books, Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail book, which might be the definitive collection of Pre-Prohibition era cocktails. One cocktail that caught our eye was the Champs Elysees, a classic French cocktail that just exudes elegance. The Champs Elysees faded from popularity for a while, but as interest in classic cocktails has grown, you can now find the Champs Elysees on many menus at craft cocktail bars.
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The traditional Champs Elysees is as French as its namesake, using two classic French spirits, cognac and Chartreuse to create an intriguing elegant cocktail. In the Savoy Cocktail book, Harry Craddock (one of the most famous bartenders of the 1920s and 1930s) presents the Champs Elysees as a six person recipe, which means this was a heck of a party drink! Like many cocktails of this era, this cocktail showcases the spirits and doesn’t try to hide the boozy aspects beneath a ton of mixers.
The Champs Elysees prominently features Chartreuse in the cocktail, which gives the cocktail a very unique flavor. Chartreuse is a unique liqueur made up of a combination of 130 herbs and botanicals that are combined per a recipe passed down by Carthusian monks since 1737.
This liqueur is super complex and aromatic, with layers of flavors that combine to make a very herb forward spirit and rich green color that is uniquely French.
Is Calvados A Cognac?
We decided to mix up our take on the Champs Elysees and substitute in another classic French spirit, Calvados for the cognac. Calvados is an apple brandy distilled from French apple cider in the Normandy region, where there are huge apple orchards.
With a large concentration of apple orchards in the region, it was only natural that the farmer’s of Normandy decided to use some of their harvest to make booze from their cider! It is distilled twice like a cognac.
The combination of Calvados and Chartreuse make for a great pairing, the hint of apple in the Calvados enhancing the natural sweetness in the Chartreuse. With the spirits being fairly bold, we needed to bring the drink into balance by adding in a sour and a sweet component.
One sure fire way to add a sour component is to incorporate some fresh squeezed lemon juice, which not only brings sour notes but also a bright hint of citrus that helps pull out some of the more subtle herbal notes of the Chartreuse. A splash of simple syrup sweetens up the drink and balances out the spirits and sour.
A couple of dashes of aromatic bitters brings a finishing touch to our take on the Champs Elysees by adding a hint of spice, which works really well with the apple hints from the Calvados. A pinch of salt tempers the tartness of the lemon and helps smooth the herbal notes to make it very pleasing to the tastebuds!
A pleasing combination of sweet and citrus, the Champs Elysees has a wonderful herbal component that makes this cocktail a real study in layered flavors and aromas. Fans of spirit forward cocktails will enjoy this as the spirits are boldly showcased, while the citrus brings a refreshing tartness to the cocktail! Cheers!
Like this recipe? Try these below, too!
- 1.5 oz Calvados Apple Brandy
- .5 oz Green Chartreuse
- .75 oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
- 1/2 Simple syrup
- 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
- Pinch of salt
- Add all ingredients to a shaker.
- Fill with ice and shake vigorously.
- Strain into a cocktail couple
- Garnish with a citrus twist.
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