What Is Lillet Blanc And How Do You Mix It In Cocktails?

If you're looking to build a bar cart with an eye on stirring up lower-alcohol cocktails, Lillet Blanc may just be your best friend. While Lillet is secretive about the specifics of the recipe, what has been shared is that the fortified white wine is made from Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes and is infused with cinchona, the source of quinine that contributes to its signature flavor. The fortification from citrusy liqueurs boosts the ABV just a bit — specifically 17%, which is a few percentage points higher than a typical glass of wine but significantly less than many liquors.

Regarding flavor, the aperitif from the over 150-year-old Bordeaux-based brand is crisp and expectedly citrusy, thanks to the liqueurs. Tasters have noted undertones of honey and herbal and floral qualities, too. It goes well in just about any cocktail that would use vermouth but stars in a few cocktails of its own.

If you're looking for variety, you can turn to sister products of the blanc. Lillet also produces Lillet Rosé, which shares the citrusy flavor of the Blanc but sports a bit more sweetness, and Lillet Rouge, which has a complex flavor profile that also incorporates citrus as well as vanilla and berries. While the Rosé is made from Semillon grapes like the Blanc, those are also blended with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes; the Rouge is made with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Meanwhile, all of the varieties of Lillet are aged in French oak barrels.

How to make cocktails with Lillet Blanc

Lillet Blanc can be simply served over ice or with soda water for a spritzer — just add fruit for garnish. Or substitute it for the Aperol in an Aperol spritz for a fizzy low-proof cocktail as fit for steamy summer days as it is for sipping at brunch. For another swap, create a far more complex flavor profile by using Lillet Blanc instead of standard white wine for white sangria.

You can also shake and stir up some drinks that already use Lillet Blanc like a white Negroni, Corpse Reviver No. 2, or a Vesper, James Bond's drink in the novel "Casino Royale." While the latter cocktail originally called for Kina Lillet, that product is no longer available, but it's easily replaced with Blanc. And if you want another cocktail with a big name attached to it, consider shaking up a French Blonde, the drink Taylor Swift's been spotted sipping.

While its herbal flavors pair particularly well with gin drinks, it can also complement whiskey, rum, tequila, and cachaca — add it to classic cocktails or even replace some of the liquor with it. 

One tip to make sure your cocktails turn out top-notch is to store Lillet Blanc properly — if you do, it will last at least a few weeks. The key is to keep the cap on tight and always keep it refrigerated after opening.

Food that pairs well with Lillet Blanc

As an aperitif, Lillet Blanc is perfect to serve with appetizers before a meal. Cheeses, particularly parmesan, chevre, or those rolled in fresh herbs, are complemented well by Lillet Blanc, as are meats like ham and pate. Its herbal undertones, slight sweetness, and crisp citrus flavor also mingle well with other small bites like briny olives or tapenade, salty nuts, and even potato chips (yes, chips and wine can be paired successfully).

Seafood is another ideal accompaniment when you're sipping this citrusy drink. Tinned anchovies, mussels, or sardines are an easy option. You can also try smoked salmon or oysters on the half-shell. For the latter, try trading out your typical topping like mignonette for the Lillet Blanc itself — just pour it right on the oysters.

In addition to pairing Lillet Blanc with snacks and meals, you can use it in your recipes. Give risotto a deeper flavor by using it instead of white wine or add herbaceousness to gravy with it. It's also handy for deglazing pans and making caramelized onions. And don't sleep on incorporating it in sweet recipes — put it to work when you're whipping up boozy ice cream at home, or rich dessert sauces and flavorful fruit compotes. Or skip the multi-step recipes and use it to make easy yet unique boozy popsicles that are sure to impress any guest.