Lillet Blanc: In Defense of Fortified Wine
The only reason I have a bottle of Lillet Blanc is because it was called for as part of the Twentieth Century cocktail in Ted Haigh's beautiful book, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. After the one party where I served this beverage, like Haigh's book says, it was forgotten until months later when I picked up the bottle and thought, what the hell is this stuff anyway?
Fortified wine is like regular wine, except that a distilled spirit (usually brandy) has been added, often during the fermentation process. Some popular examples are sherry, vermouth, port and my new friend, Lillet Blanc. But most people think of the notorious Mad Dog 20/20 or Thunderbird when fortified wine is mentioned. When I was a kid there was even a rumor that "fortified" meant that it was made alcoholic through the use of radiation, which is, of course, 100% bullshit. Those homeless man's poisons aren't even worth mentioning in the same breath as Lillet. But I'm digressing.
Simply put, Lillet Blanc is wonderful. It's a bouquet of sweet white wine, orange, lemon and a smidgeon of alcohol burn which makes me feel like I'm sitting at an outdoor cafe in a rustic Mediterranean town. Serve it up, or on the rocks with a lemon twist. If you're tired of the red and white run-around of un-strong Cabs and Chardonnays, try Lillet. You won't regret it. And rumor has it that James Bond preferred Lillet to vermouth in his Martinis.