The Mysteries Wood Maturation at Tales of the Cocktail
Big Drinks at Tales of the Cocktail

Shhh! It's a Secret

These are notes on the Shhh! It's a Secret seminar at the Tales of the Cocktail convention.

  • For alcohol products you have to list your ingredients, method, etc. to the TTB before approval - the whole recipe, in gernal. This isn't the same for non-alcoholic products. 
  • Lillet is in a category of tonic wine, rather than vermouth. 
  • In 1886 John Pemberton released a syrup with cola nuts and coca- Coca Cola. But one year before that there was John Pemberton's Nerve Wine Coca, a "tonic wine". This was changed based on the coming backlash against alcohol.  In 1863 in France, Vin Mariani (containing both coca and quinquina/quinine) was also a tonic wine, that may have been the inspiration for Pemberton.
  •  Before the discovery of the new world, Europe didn't have cinchona.  (Or phyloxera, but that's another story.) Tonics and medicines from local communities in both the new and old world start to become branded medicines/health tonics. 
  • Cinchona name comes from the name of a Spanish governor to Peru, the Marquee of Quinquon (sp?) whose wife was ill and this tonic helped her. 
  • Quinquina was a selling point for tonic wines. 
  • Back in the day, Lillet made many products, not just the fortified wine we know today. 
  • Lillet contains wine from 3 grapes, macerations of cinchona, sweet and bitter orange peels from Haiti, Morocco, and Spain, and several additional (SECRET!) Boredeaux fruits. There are ten  ingredients. 
  • Jackie Patterson says you can see the size of the word "Kina" or "quinquina" getting smaller over the years in advertising. This indicates the brands coming into their own rather than advertising the base ingredient (so, similar to Pepsi-Cola becoming just Pepsi), so they promote the brand name versus the ingredient. 
  • Rumor has it that Lillet has changed; that the quinquina/bitterness decreased when it changed from Kina Lillet to Lillet in name. Patterson says the blender says "it's never been a bitter, what it adds to the flavor of Lillet is something akin to roundness and depth."  That said, they aknowledge that the alcohol percent was lowered and it became less sweet. 
  • To make Gran Classico, they pour alcohol over a big sort of funnel filled with herbs to slowly extract the flavors. It gets its color and flavor from percolation. Then it is lightly filtered and sugar is added. "This is very typical to what you would have tasted a couple hundred year ago."
  • Fernet is a spirit category, not a brand name. 
  • It is possible that fernet was originally created by one monk with a name something like Frangellino Fernet. 
  • Fernet contains a mushroom that sucks the flavors off the trees that it grows on, usually larch trees. 

Laptop running out of power - I'll add more later!


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So what exactly is a fernet? That has always confused me.

Camper English

That is an excellent question. I have no idea what the answer is. Let me see if I can find out...

Camper English

Here is the answer, in case you haven't seen it:


The idea of slow extraction and percolation intrigues me. Stay tuned...

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