‘SKusmi While I Drink My Tea

Author: Kirsten K., Food & Drink, Hot Drinks, Tea

SKusmi 1Shortly after Kirsti and I had our life-changing brush with culinary violet on a trip to France several years ago, I was scouring the Internet in my never-ending quest for the perfect violet flavor when I came across Kusmi Violette tea. I had never heard of Kusmi, but as a regular tea drinker and newly-minted violet enthusiast, I immediately ordered a large canister. I was a little wary after the number of disappointments I’d had in my search for a true violet extract, but the contents of this tin did not let me down. The floral scent is delicate beneath the robust aroma of black tea, but it smells and tastes like real violets. The brew instantly became my favorite and has remained so to this day.

Based in Paris since 1917, the Kousmichoff company—shortened to Kusmi—was founded in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1867 and achieved success with its special tea blends, including one that became a favorite with the tsar. Even today, their gilded and vibrantly-colored packaging evokes the Baroque interiors of the Winter Palace and brings to mind steaming samovars and White Nights.

SKusmi 2Kusmi is known for its Russian tea blends, and when my friend Mika returned from a recent visit to the South of France, she surprised me with a sampler containing some of their most popular varieties: Anastasia, Bouquet of Flowers N˚108 (Kusmi’s oldest recipe and the choice of tsars), Christmas Tea, Imperial Label, Kashmir Tchai, Prince Vladimir, and St. Petersburg (both black and green versions). While I normally prefer loose tea, all of the blends are uniquely delicious and fresh in their individual muslin bags. I particularly enjoyed the Bouquet of Flowers N˚108, which combines Earl Grey with citrus fruits and flowers. If it’s good enough for the ruler of Imperial Russia…

Knowing that Kusmi’s Violette tea wasn’t just a one-hit wonder, and having eight other tempting varieties on hand to sip and savor, I hope you’ll ‘sKusmi while I drink my tea.

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Kusmi Tea

 

Kusmi teas are available in the States from the company’s U.S. website and can also be purchased at Amazon and a variety of online retailers.

 

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Violet Liqueur – The Bitter Truth Is Sweet

Author: Kirsti Kay, Cocktails, Drinks, Entertaining, Food & Drink, Nostalgia, Recipes, Spirits, Travel
Violet Liqueur 1

Swooning over the ice cream in Provence.

When Kirsten and I were in the South of France several years ago, we both had the same defining food moment. We were in Les Baux and ordered violet ice cream from a perfect shop on a perfect cobblestone street. We had tasted rose ice cream before, and on the previous day in Aix-en-Provence we had tried lavender ice cream for the first time. But the moment the first glorious spoonful of violet ice cream hit our lips, we truly and completely swooned. It was like the episode of The Brady Bunch when Bobby defends Millicent at school (awesomely played by Melissa Sue Anderson). She kisses him in thanks and fireworks go off in his head and he is happily dazed by the experience. France is, of course, one of the best places on earth…the food, the wine, the country…but my greatest memory of that trip was the singular, purple-hued cup of violet ice cream. Both Kirsten and I agreed that it was the greatest thing we had ever tasted. Loving food the way we do, that is saying something. Our violet obsession had begun.

When we got back to the States, we spent years trying to find a violet extract that would allow us to relive that violet-infused moment, but, despite spending a lot of time on the Internet and a lot of money on violet flavorings, we haven’t been able to replicate that firework-inducing moment of bliss, particularly when it comes to cocktails.Violet Liqueur 2

I always love using floral flavors in cocktails. When St. Germain, the celebrated elderflower liqueur came out, I was over the moon with delight. When Shakers released rose-flavored vodka, I was making vodka tonics several times a week (it is sadly not available anymore). I have purchased about four different violet liqueurs, but none really had that true violet scent and flavor (although some of the bottles are super dreamy). And then I stumbled on The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur. The moment I read about it, I felt panic that I might not be able to find it, but Hi-Time Wine Cellars shipped it to me within three days of my order.

The first thing I noticed about it was the deeply purple color. My other violet liqueurs are varying shades of purple, but none has the color the website describes as “reminiscent of a full moon reflected on a river in the twilight.” That is some damn poetry! I opened the bottle and the scent brought me right back to that cobblestone street in Les Baux. I needed to mix this with some stuff and pour it into a fancy coup, stat!

Violet Liqueur 3My friend Melissa was coming over that weekend and I decided to make the classic Aviation cocktail. The first thing I noticed was the incredible color—it was like a goth dream. The second thing I noticed was that it smelled just like violets! Some floral flavorings can be so sickeningly sweet and overpowering, but this was just right. And then the taste…all I can say is—fireworks. Melissa doesn’t drink very often, but I think she enjoyed her fancy cocktail. I ended up having two drinks (it would have been a crime to let that boozy goodness go to waste) and floated in a delicious violet haze for the rest of the afternoon.

I guess we’ll never know if Bobby Brady would have seen fireworks if he tried The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur. I’m sure Alice or maybe cousin Oliver would have saved him from the degenerate horror of underage drinking. But I bet that Greg would have dug it, surreptitiously sipping from Mrs. Brady’s martini glass in his fringed vest up in his groovy attic room, maybe even with a few of those cigarettes he was so fond of. Queue the laugh track while I pour myself another…Violet Liqueur 4

AVIATION COCKTAIL (courtesy of The Bitter Truth)

2 oz dry gin
¾ oz The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur
⅓ oz maraschino liqueur
¾ oz fresh lemon or lime juice

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Makes 1 drink.

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The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur

 

The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur can be purchased from Hi-Time Wine Cellars. Maraschino liqueur and dry gin are available at BevMo and most liquor stores.