In the previous Lillet Post, Kina Lillet, 2012, we talked a bit about David Embury.
His two quotes which contributed to the discussion were as follows:
“My own favorite French vermouth today is Lillet (pronounced lee’lay) made by Lillet Freres of Podensac, France. Do not confuse it with the Lillet aperitif made by the same company and originally sold under the name of Kina Lillet.”
“In commenting on Lillet vermouth, I warned not to confuse this brand of vermouth with the aperitif wine, originally known as Kina Lillet but now called simply Lillet. If, by accident, you get a bottle of the wine instead of the vermouth, what do you do with it? Well, here are a few of the old-time recipes using Kina Lillet. I definitely do not recommend any of them.”
It now appears that the Lillet company DID produce a vermouth during the middle part of the 20th Century.
Page 207 it explains that, at some point after 1945, there was indeed another type of Lillet, “Lillet dry type canadien” at 18°. The bottle had a green label similar to Martini extra dry. It was an aperitif based on French vermouths such as Noilly Prat. So clearly David Embury was referring to this French vermouth-style Lillet in the Fine Art of Mixing Drinks (1948).
So, what does that mean?
Well, first, and most practical, if there are any recipes where Embury calls for Lillet other than in those “old-time recipes”, you should instead use Noilly Prat vermouth.
On the other hand, it means those comments from Embury are of no consequence regarding any inferences about the nature of Kina Lillet, Lillet Blanc, or Lillet in the US before prohibition, the UK during prohibition, or the US after prohibition.
However, the main question remains:
What version of Lillet would have been available in America before prohibition and in England during prohibition? And, ultimately, does the current product reflect the Lillet that might have been available at either of those times?
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