“The French have a civilized tradition called the “apéro,” a time to relax after a long day, chat, and enjoy a drink before dinner,” writes Angela Sanders in The Paris Edition of her monthly newsletter. “Rather than the tastebud-obliterating cocktail, they prefer something softer, such as a modest glass of fortified wine on ice. You might have heard of vin d’orange and vin de noix, but what about vin de magnolia?” I hadn’t, and Angela’s description of vin de magnolia as an apéritif with “a vanilla-spicy-herbal flavor” made me long to try it.
Many of you know Angela’s column on Now Smell This, but she also is the author of Dior or Die, The Halston Hit, The Lanvin Murders, and a number of other mystery novels involving vintage fashions. In addition to her writing skills, she has a talent for discovering gems, be they retro garments, perfume, or as in this case, cocktails.
Should you be lucky enough to have a magnolia tree in the vicinity, you can make your own vin de magnolia. It only requires 2 magnolia flowers, a bottle of red wine, some eau de vie and sugar. Angela gives the recipe in her newsletter.
Not a single magnolia petal is to be had in Brussels at the moment. Before I despaired too much on this account, the magic of the internet turned up a cocktail called Grandiflora. The idea came from the website of magnolia growers in Nantes, magnolia-nantes.fr. At the end of an article on how magnolia flowers can be used in everything from beauty to interior decor, the esteemed growers offered a cocktail recipe to mollify those who can’t get fresh flowers.
Inspired by the citrusy flavor of magnolia grandiflora, it blends Muscadet (fruity white wine from the Loire Valley), orange juice and orange flavored liqueurs. The result is as refreshing as it is heady, with a complex citrus aroma, and a lingering finish.
You can use any other fruity white wine instead of Muscadet, as long as it’s not overly sweet or oaky. The original recipe calls for Curaçao, which I associate with cheap cocktails served at grad student bars. Instead, I use Grand Marnier, a more interesting version of the blue stuff.
I also scaled down the recipe to more reasonable proportions, but if your life requires Cocktail Grandiflora by the gallon, please check the original recipe and knock yourself out.
A non-alcoholic version: as I was sharing some comments below, I decided to attempt a non-alcoholic version of the Cocktail Grandiflora by mixing orange juice, mandarin and grapefruit juice (1 cup, 1/4 cup, 1/4 cup, respectively) and adding 1/4 teaspoon orange blossom water to emphasize a floral accent. It turned out refreshing and fragrant. If anyone experiments with it further, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
3/4 cup of Muscadet
1 cup of orange juice
3 Tbsps of Cointreau or triple sec
3 Tbsps of Grand Marnier
Mix and serve over ice. Makes 2 glasses.
Photography by Bois de Jasmin