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French 125

2 oz Remy Martin VSOP
1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
2 tsp Powdered Sugar
Champagne

In a mixing glass, dissolve sugar in lemon juice
Add brandy and shake with ice
Add to a champagne flute, then top with chilled Champagne

* * *

In our Year of the Sportsman, we ask you: Is there any sport greater than the Game of Love?  We think not (except maybe jai alai, which we’ve never completely understood but it looks equally physical and invigorating).  Given the quick approach of Valentine’s Day, we thought we’d offer up a few sophisticated tipples which, along with tender care and thoughtfulness, can be applied liberally on the big night.

If there was a World Cup for romance, it is likely that the French would claim it more often than not.  From writer Victor Hugo (“Since I have set my lips to your full cup, my sweet”) to filmmaker  Jean-Pierre Jeunet (is there any more perfectly romantic soul than fair Amélie?), the French have not only shown the world how to play the game, they’ve written the rule book.  Case in point is our friend, Chef Christophe Émé, who is married to the lovely actress Jeri Ryan.  Being French, Christophe has always had joie de vivre to spare, but he really outdid himself in his marriage proposal to Ryan.  As Ryan recounted the story to InStyle:

“One night, Christophe covered my eyes and took me into our bedroom,” recalls Ryan. There the die-hard romantic had placed candles, champagne and a canvas painted with the messages “And you come with me forever” in French and “Grow old along with me” in English.

That, kids, is a master at work.  Indeed, when it came time for Lesley and me to celebrate our last anniversary sans enfant, I called Christophe and jokingly asked him, “Could you recommend any chefs that not only know a lot about love but also how to cook for a pregnant woman?”  As Ryan had recently given birth to a beautiful daughter, Christophe got the gist of my inquiry – but not without first dishing back a round of well-placed, heavily-accented quips at my expense.

If you or your significant other has ever been pregnant, you know that dining out, especially at a Michelin-starred restaurant, doesn’t come without a list of caveats, yet my one question was all it took for Christophe to prepare a menu nonpareil:  White Asparagus with English Pea and Summer Savory Emulsion, a Spaghetti basket (which had to been seen to be believed) with Ratatouille and Spicy Tomato Sauce, Turbot with Artichoke and Olive, Poached Beef in Consommé with Marrow and Summer Vegetables, Saddle of Rabbit with Prosciutto, Gnocchi and Mushrooms, the cheese course, Panna Cotta with Peach “Caviar”, White Chocolate and Fig with Verbena Sorbet and a Honey Infusion, and of course, the Petit Fours.

I’ve listed all the courses here because, to me, they are the very definition of love – not just the love of grand cuisine, which Lesley and I put near the top of life’s great pursuits, and not just the love that such a sensorial symphony arouses in those consuming it, but the love imbued into each bite by the chef who has orchestrated it all.  Christophe’s work was (and is) to the palate what Victor Hugo’s is to the ear:  shameless, unbridled romance.  And that, I think, is the ace up the collective sleeves of the French. Think of Amélie as she releases a sigh of longing and melts, as her heart melts, into a pool of water.  Only a gamine can love with such resolve.

And so, when our thoughts turn to love and Valentine’s Day, we immediately think French – and think Champagne.  Now, while Champagne alone may start your tendres baisers off in the right direction, we believe that love, like war, is a game meant to be played for keeps.  Which is why we’ve broken out the French 125, a cognac variation on the Savoy Cocktail Book’s gin-based French 75 – the latter taking its name from the Soixante-Quinze, or French 75mm field gun of WWI fame.  Important to note is that most recipes call for this drink to be served in a collins glass over cracked ice – which is perfect for a summer cooler – but for an evening out (or in), forego the ice and use a proper Champagne flute.  True to its namesake, the French 125 will hit you – or those to whom you are applying it – like a cannon.  One of these, well placed, should be all you need, and it’s best to remember that love is a game won over the course of an evening (or longer, if you want to get technical about it) not in a single bombardment – which means: sip, savor, and let it unfold.

If you’re plotting your Valentine’s strategy, consider the French 125 as an invaluable piece of artillery.  With a little guidance, pretty much any restaurant with a full bar should be able to make you one – it’s an easy enough recipe, for goodness sake.  Still, if they’re hesitant, just tell the bartender that it’s the drink you and your beloved (pour toujours or du jour) first shared at a small café in Montmarte – your eyes locked over the bubbles, as you raised your glasses in unison, bringing the promise of new love to your lips. Even if it’s not true, all is fair in love, war… and getting a good drink.

 

To Complete the Thought: Here’s the rest of that Victor Hugo poem, More Strong Than Time.  Apply as needed, but be careful – I’m not sure this one ended well.

Since I have set my lips to your full cup, my sweet,
Since I my pallid face between your hands have laid,
Since I have known your soul, and all the bloom of it,
And all the perfume rare, now buried in the shade;

Since it was given to me to hear on happy while,
The words wherein your heart spoke all its mysteries,
Since I have seen you weep, and since I have seen you smile,
Your lips upon my lips, and your eyes upon my eyes;

Since I have known above my forehead glance and gleam,
A ray, a single ray, of your star, veiled always,
Since I have felt the fall, upon my lifetime’s stream,
Of one rose petal plucked from the roses of your days;

I now am bold to say to the swift changing hours,
Pass, pass upon your way, for I grow never old,
Fleet to the dark abysm with all your fading flowers,
One rose that none may pluck, within my heart I hold.

Your flying wings may smite, but they can never spill
The cup fulfilled of love, from which my lips are wet;
My heart has far more fire than you can frost to chill,
My soul more love than you can make my soul forget.

 

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