Once elusive, Crème Yvette is springing up all over Toronto’s cocktail menus
By Sarah Parniak
Spring, that fickle tease, is finally upon us. Fittingly, Crème Yvette, a proprietary French liqueur that’s flavoured with violets and berries, is budding all over Toronto’s seasonal cocktail lists.
The elusive Crème Yvette, first introduced to thirsty consumers in the late 1800s, is named for the French Belle Epoque actress and cabaret singer Yvette Guilbert, one of artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s Moulin Rouge muses.
The liqueur was almost completely lost to obscurity when production ceased in 1969. Since revived by the creator of the St. Germain elderflower liqueur, Crème Yvette is quickly gaining exposure via Toronto's cocktail bartenders.
Although it originated as a dainty lady’s sipper, Crème Yvette’s modern application is in small amounts (usually no more than quarter-ounce measures) that bestow a floral flavour and pretty hue on both classic and signature concoctions.
My introduction to Yvette happened in Paris, where ordering a Violette yields a violet-tinged Kir Royale hybrid (substituting the classic combination of Champagne and Creme de Cassis for Yvette and bubbly). Enjoyed alongside oysters, it’s otherworldly.
The flagship cocktail containing Crème Yvette is the Aviation (named for its celestial colouration, which is courtesy of the Yvette). It first appeared in 1916 in Hugo Ensslin's Recipes for Mixed Drinks, published right before shit hit the fan in the 1920s with the “noble experiment” — better known as Prohibition.
A properly-mixed Aviation is one of the tastiest liquid delights in the game. A blend of gin, lemon, Crème Yvette and maraschino liqueur, the Aviation appeals to most tastebuds with its balanced tartness, subtle florals and whimsical tint.
Crème Yvette made a brief appearance in the LCBO’s Vintages section in February but was quickly snatched up by bartenders eager to work with this unique liqueur. It is currently available through private order, but the easiest way to sample some Crème Yvette is by planting yourself on select barstools across Toronto.
Head to the Miller Tavern (31 Bay St., 416-366-5544) to sip on a Lavender Collins ($10) made with Hendricks gin, fresh lime, lavender syrup, Crème Yvette and soda.
If you are a member of the Toronto Temperence Society (577A College St.) or can get yourself an invite, then don’t miss the Fallow Grave ($14), bartender Robin Kaufman’s blend of Buffalo Trace bourbon, Crème Yvette, Amaro Nonino, grapefruit and orange bitters with a grapefruit twist. If you ask nicely, he might also mix you up a classic Atty — gin, French vermouth, Crème Yvette and absinthe ($14).
At Chantecler (1320 Queen St. W., 416-628-3586), sample the Rhubarb Silver Smash ($12; pictured), which is made with Victoria gin, Crème Yvette, Maraschino, juiced rhubarb and egg white.
Seek the Aviation at the aforementioned spots, as well as The Drake Hotel (1150 Queen St. W., 416-531-5042) and the brand new Spirithouse (487 Adelaide St., 647-277-1187).