The Champs Élysées is, by all accounts, one of the best known avenues in the world, associated with sidewalk cafes, expensive shops, the Arc de triomphe, and great literature from the lost generation of Ernest Hemingway and stories of ex-patriots in Paris during the golden age of absinthe, to the long and weary tale of Jean Valjean in Victor Hugo’s masterpiece, Les Misérables. It’s all there, from the time of Louis XIV right up to the most recent Tour de France, the Champs Élysées evokes the best of Paris, and France, in the same way Broadway, or Route 66 evoke the core vibe of the American culture and dream. There is no doubt a cocktail named Champs Élysées would be very elegant, and so very French.
The first record of the Champs Élysées cocktail is in Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book, a book known for many classic recipes as well as incomplete and cryptic notations. In the spirit of it’s namesake, the Champs Élysées is a cognac coktail, with Green Chartreuse and lemon, however, Craddock only specifies “Chartreuse.” Your call on that, Green Chartreuse is what’s mostly found in the many published recipes. Whichever Chartreuse you choose, you’ll need some cognac, the other oh so French ingredient in this cocktail, which is, essentially, a variation of a Sidecar. The Chartreuse stands in for Cointreau, and it’s enough to give the Champs Élysées an entirely different character. It’s herbal, alluring, and layered with complexity because, that’s what Chartreuse is for.
Making a Champs Élysées is pretty straightforward. It’s no different than a Sidecar or any sour, but we’re a bit out of luck when it comes to cognac. There is local brandy, however, and, if you’re used to using a cognac like Pierre Ferrand 1840, Treos Brandy from Vivacity should feel (and taste) right in line with what you’ve already had. It’s perfectly suited to this drink, and pairs well with the Green Chartreuse.
The challenge of the Champs Élysées is balance. Green Chartreuse is deceptive. It’s herbal, really herbal and strongly flavored hiding its sweetness, but it is sweet. Some sugar is needed, but go easy until you find just the right amount. For us, we like just a touch of sweet to soften the edge, but not enough that the herbal notes are muted. Chartreuse is meant to stand tall in the glass, and there’s no point hiding it. Just don’t forget the Scrappy’s Aromatic Bitters, and on that next night out, go see Les Mis. You’ll want a Champs Élysées anyway, so why not go all the way? Just don’t steal any bread.
Shake with ice and serve up. Garnish with a lemon twist.
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