During the Market Challenge of the Swiss World Class Final 2015, everyone of the finalists was given a topic by random. They then had 20 minutes to conceive a cocktail matching that theme and to buy the ingredients for it in a local deli. The topic that I got was French Riviera, and I ended up creating a drink from vodka, verjus, and green tea syrup. In fact, this idea is not terribly new; I had already worked on a similar drink with gin, verjus and Sauternes, called Julia & the Grape

This is a good time to explain what’s the fuzz about verjus. It is the juice of young, green grapes and because the grapes didn’t yet get a chance to develop any sugar, their juice is quite acidic. It has been widely used in the Middle Ages and is still common in the Middle East; but has recently regained popularity in the modern Western world. So as an ingredient for cocktails, it takes on a similar function as citrus juices, but with a different, finer, more elegant taste. And this is quite spectacular!

Think about it: If all you use is citrus juices as acid ingredients, every drink that you want to have a sweet-sour balance will also have citrus aromas, and thus already have a certain direction. To expand the repertoire of acidic ingredients is to open up a whole new category of cocktails. I do realise that people have been playing around with shrubs, vinegars and acid solutions; but I find verjus to be a lot more versatile and mixable.

In fact, I go as far as to suggest a new category of drinks enabled by verjus, which is similar to the sours, but lighter and more suited to floral aromas. In want for a better name, and because I realised this during the aforementioned World Class challenge, I call them Riviera drinks. I would describe them as lighter, less aggressive than your standard sour, and more akin to some really fancy wine.

Generic Riviera
  1. 40 ml base spirit of your choice
  2. 30 ml verjus
  3. ~15 ml sweetener matching the base spirit
  1. Throw eight times, then serve in a chilled wine glass without ice.
  2. Of course, your ratios will vary depending on the acidity of your particular verjus, the sweetness of your sweetener and the abv of your spirit. Also, the addition of some lighter bitters is definitely an option.
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And you’d be surprised how well this works: Obviously, verjus has an affinity for other wine-based ingredients; browse my article about the G’Vine Perspectives Finalists of 2015 to get some inspiration. But now think of Peruvian Rivieras (with Pisco), French 75 variations with Champagne or Sidecar variations such as the following. Here I’m using Rin Quin Quin, which is a wine aperitif that is flavoured with peaches.

French Riviera
  1. 40 ml Cognac (Rémy Martin VSOP)
  2. 30 ml verjus
  3. 15 ml Rin Quin Quin
  4. 1 dash Elmigrab's Boker's bitters
  1. Throw eight times, then serve in chilled wine glass without ice. Garnish with physalis.
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