September 15 was National Crème de Menthe Day! For the hundredth time – who comes up with this? In this case I’m happy to see a little love shown to this indispensable Liqueur.
Liqueurs by their nature evoke an involuntary happy reflex. Let’s face it, we all love dessert and Liqueurs are simply an adult, liquid dessert. Like desserts some are simple and some are complex and sophisticated while others are nostalgic and comforting.
Crème de Menthe is a Liqueur that always sparks a smile with me. It reminds me of simpler times and my earliest days of bartending when kitchie drinks that are now beyond passé. I dare anyone to say Crème de Menthe without instantly flashing to the iconic grasshopper cocktail. This might be the height on uncool in the eyes of many, which makes it all the more desirable.
The Birth of Crème de Menthe
The invention of Crème de Menthe is attributed to Emile Giffard, a pharmacist in France’s Loire Valley. As a pharmacist Giffard was keen on studying the ability of mint to aid digestion. Remember that Liqueurs and digestives were among the first medicines. He formulated a Liqueur that was the predecessor to the modern Crème de Menthe that was offered to customers of the Grand Hotel in Angers. The elixir was so popular that he converted the pharmacy into a distillery.
Traditionally Corsican mint was the mint variety of choice. Peppermint is also a popular variety for contemporary Crème de Menthe. The mint leaves are steeped in a neutral grain alcohol for weeks, filtered and then given a sugar addition.
Crème de Menthe the Color Question
Crème de Menthe is offered in both white (actually colorless) and green. The shade and depth of green vary from brand to brand. The flavor difference from white to green in negligible at best as both exude flavors of wonderfully sweet mint. The colors exist to serve the color cocktail as the world is not ready for a white grasshopper.
Popular Crème de Menthe Cocktails
Popular Crème de Menthe Cocktails include: Stinger, Grasshopper, Irish Mint, Candy Cane, Christmas Tree, Eskimo Green, Monkey’s Punch, and my semi-famous Island Hopper.