The venerable family-run, Dijon-based 'Maison Gabriel Boudier' is regarded by many as being the finest fabricant of fruit-based liqueurs. Their best-selling Crème de Cassis that comes in a distinctive square bottle with an ornate fin de sciècle label, is beloved by bar keepers across continents for its intense blackcurrant flavour and consistently high quality. Apparently the square bottles came into being in the Second World War when glass was in short supply and producers were struggling to bottle their wares. An enterprising Boudier employee agreed to distil a big batch of gin for a United States Major and took payment in square American gin bottles. When the resultant consignment of cassis hit the market it was rapturously received and the rest is history.
Although less well-known, the rest of the Boudier range is equally finely-crafted and their framboises (raspberry), fraise de bois (wild strawberry), mures (blackberry) and pêches (peach) liqueurs all go down a treat judiciously added to sparkling wine or poured over ice cream or sorbet.
We have long extolled the virtues of a small, chilled glass of Pineau des Charentes as an agreeable 'attitude adjuster' and, if there is a finer producer than Domaine Gardrat, we have yet to come across them. One only has to decide between their regular bottling which is pale and grapey and ideal for al fresco imbibing or the heady, dark, tawny 'Réserve' version which is more of a contemplative, armchair offering. Of course Floc de Gascogne serves a pretty similar purpose which is why we elect to ship a deep rosé version from the Dèche family's Domaine Millet, which is best served 'on the rocks' as the curfew tolls the knell of parting day.
Ratafia would be more popular if anyone had a clue how to pronounce it, but Gilles Dumangin's version blended from Champagne must and grape alcohol is rapidly gaining in popularity on these shores and is starting to win some well deserved attention in the press. Matthew Jukes recently extolled its virtues in the Daily Mail, describing it as "drop-dead gorgeous" and going on to attest "The rich, complex, dried citrus flavours are offset with lip-smacking sweetness and a long finish." He recommended drinking it "prior to dinner or with puddings, cheese and even after supper."
Lastly it would be remiss not to mention Julian Temperley's terrific 'Kingston Black' aperitif, a wonderful West Country blend of apple juice and cider brandy. From Glastonbury to Gurney Slade, it is fast-becoming the de rigeur tincture of the rural glitterati!