St Germain: The Virgin America of liqueurs?

Guest post by Red Slice intern, Suzi An

How often do you hear about Elderflower liqueur? I’m not sure I knew what Elderflower was until last week. Which is unfortunate because that’s from what St. Germain is made. My first experience with fancy liqueur was at the beginning of the year when a bartender at Via Tribunali placed a small glass of something in front of me.

“What is that?” I ask.

“It’s St. Germain,” says Andrew.

I dunk my nose just below the rim of the glass and began to sniff.

“Why does it smell like lychee?” At this point, I’m confused but intrigued by the sweet smelling liqueur.

It wasn’t until last month that our paths crossed once again. But this time, I saw the actual bottle. Have you seen this thing? It is possibly the most elegant bottle of alcohol I have ever seen. It’s a tall, heavy glass bottle with six sides and a color scheme of navy blue, gold, and if you look closely, light turquoise. Even the cap is elegant and refined. I then proceeded to read the little booklet that was attached to its neck that relayed the story of St. Germain. Think about a French man riding his bicycle in the Alps to gather the delicate flower by hand. He then rides his bicycle down to the local market. There are only 40 to 50 of these men who make it possible for the rare liqueur to be made in a given year; hence why St. Germain is rare and a bit pricey. I flip the page and that’s when the sassiness began:

To put this into context, we can safely say that no men, bohémien or otherwise, will be wandering the hillsides of Poland this spring gathering wild potatoes for your vodka. Likewise, we know of no Bavarians planning to scour the German countryside in search of exotic native hops and barley for your beer.” I love that they are so confident in their brand because they know it takes much effort to make such a rare liqueur. Furthermore, they are proud of their brand because of the craftsmanship aspect of it. You can tell by their word choice. Again, brand communicated verbally is just as important as anything visual.

Neither passionfruit nor pear, grapefruit nor lemon, the sublime taste of St. Germain hints at each of these and yet none of them exactly. It is a flavor as subtle and delicate as it is captivating. A little like asking a humminghbird to describe the flavor of its favorite nectar. Très curieux indeed, n’est-ce pas?” Very curious, indeed, is it not?

Very curious. Beyond curious. I’m fascinated. The reason why I say St. Germain is the Virgin America of liqueurs is because of the sassiness and the experience they promise. Virgin America flies to limited places, St. Germain has limited quantities of their liqueur. Virgin America promises to make flying fun, St. Germain promises to make you feel sassy and sophisticated. Virgin America’s tone is that of St. Germain. Both are fun and snippy.

In the same booklet, there are pages of recipes that contain even more fun little surprises than the brand story. For example, at the end of the directions for the Sangria Flora, it says, “Serve in an iced-filled glass, then telephone your physician and regale him with stories of your exemplary fruit consumption.” I chuckled as I read that. As I closed the little booklet, it was as if a whimsical soirée had come to an end. I wanted to go back and read through the whole thing like a party I just didn’t want to leave. I wanted to feel like I was enjoying a warm summer night eating delicious French food with my closest friends, as we dine by the dim lights hanging from the trees around us. My experience with St. Germain is not about the liqueur; it’s about the brand, the story of how it came to be, the way it interacts with me, and the way the brand makes me feel. I don’t think I could say that about any other alcohol brand.

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