Cranberry Auberge cocktail

I discovered this drink in The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth, a book I seem to reread every couple of years. Written by Roy Andries de Groot, it’s an ode to a charming auberge (inn), nestled in the French alps, where two women created magical meals for their guests. Like most meals in France, their menus began with an apéritif. One in the book was a glass of Dubonnet, with an equal amount of kirsch, topped off with a dash of soda water.

It was quite a drink, which I refashioned since after all that kirsch, I didn’t know how anyone could have made it through one of their multi-course dinners. At the auberge, each course had its own wine pairing (at lunch and dinner), such as the one that started the meal that followed this apéritif in the book, with included a Pork liver terrine, cream of tomato soup, a tourte (enclosed pastry tart) of wild boar à la crème, then three different kinds of cheeses, and—whew—a sweet, creamed fresh cheese for dessert. I don’t know about you, but I’m full just reading about it. And no wonder I’ve read this book so many times; it makes me hungry, and full, at the same time.

If you want to relive the good old days, you can double the amount of kirsch, but if you want to make it through dinner, I’d stick to the proportions here. Kirsch is a clear distillation of cherries, that’s rather potent, but widely available. However you can use another eau-de-vie. I’ve shown a few other bottles from my collection, above, or you could find another with a complimentary flavor to the apéritif wine, and use that.

The apéritif that I used here is Byrrh. It has a funny name, which the Violet brothers who developed it in 1873 as a medicinal tonic. Pressed for time, they came up with the name quickly; as fabric merchants, they saw the random letters in a box in the shop, put them together, and came up with Byrrh. Its fame spread and during its heyday, it was the most popular French apéritif in the world.

Although the name is pronounced like bière (beer), it’s wine-based, infused with botanicals like orange, cinnamon, and quinine, and has cherry-like notes that pairs well with tangy cranberries. Other French red apéritifs that could be used are Dubonnet, Cap Corse rouge, or even sweet vermouth. Each has its own flavor profile, but availability can vary based on where you live. So feel free to swap out one for another.

Speaking of names, the word for cranberry in French is canneberge, which sort of sounds like auberge. Although the fresh berries are in short supply (however they usually appear around the holidays, for les américians), the juice is available. I thought there would be a good mash-up name for this apéritif that combined the two words, and cultures, but ‘Canberge’, didn’t quite sound right, nor did Auberge, which was a little too on-the-nose. So I called it Cranberry Auberge, and then we drank up.

Cranberry Auberge
Print Recipe
1 drink
Byrrh is sold in well-stocked liquor stores in the States. The Grand Quinquina is what is usually exported, which is said to be the original recipe and is more refined. The larger bottle (shown in the post, to the foreground of the Grand Quinquina) is the bottle that's most widely available in France, sold in supermarkets. In place of the Byrrh, feel free to use another French red apéritif, such as Cap Corse rouge, Lillet rouge, Dubonnet, or sweet vermouth, such as Dolin. As a swap out for the eau-de-vie, try this cocktail with gin instead.
1 1/2 ounces Byrrh, or another French red apéritif wine, or sweet vermouth
3/4 ounce eau-de-vie, preferably kirsch
1 ounce cranberry juice
sparkling water or dry sparkling wine
orange twist and fresh cranberries, for garnish
1. In a short tumbler or rocks glass, mix together the Byrrh, eau-de-vie, and cranberry juice.
2. Add a handful of ice and top off with sparkling water. Garnish with an orange twist and a few fresh cranberries.

A delicious, colorful cocktail.

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23 comments

  • Bricktop
    December 11, 2018 3:07pm

    I don’t think there is a book that I have re-read more than “The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth”. People often write reviews that say books are evocative, but this one is transportative. When I read it, I am there. I wonder if de Groot’s being blind was a factor. Notwithstanding, I could not recommend this book more highly. In fact, I will re-re-read it again over the holidays.

    • December 11, 2018 3:16pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, I don’t know of a book that’s more evocative of a certain place, and time, in France. I also wonder if his being blind, if having someone describe things to him, he was able to be more imaginative when he wrote his descriptions of places and foods? When I went to Voiron last month, back to Chartreuse distillery, I re-read it again. No one there knew anything about the book, and the place is gone, but it’s nice to image what it was like back then…

      • Marsha
        December 11, 2018 5:20pm

        The place is not gone, I was there just last year. It’s just no longer run by the two ladies, and the people who do run it know nothing about the book or the inn’s former owners.

        • December 11, 2018 8:05pm
          David Lebovitz

          The building is still there but it’s not called the same name, nor it is run by the same people, and they have zero references to the original inn or auberge. But yes, technically, you’re right – the building is still standing, so I’m wrong.

  • Jenne
    December 11, 2018 4:14pm

    What about “Cranberge”??

    • December 11, 2018 8:06pm
      David Lebovitz

      I thought about that but it doesn’t quite mean anything, so I didn’t think it fit. I’ve learned from bartender friends that naming cocktails isn’t easy!

  • Gay Judson
    December 11, 2018 4:24pm

    I, too, read the book years and years ago and continue to treasure the experience. I think you’ve pushed me to pull it out again to reread. I fear that my paperback copy might not be up to the service of another reading though. Thanks for the memory.

  • Helen S.
    December 11, 2018 4:37pm

    I don’t own the book you mentioned, but have another by same author, Roy Andries de Groot, Feasts For All Seasons.I love reading it; like having an episode of tv shows.It reads with the seasonal changes and has wonderful recipes also.

    • December 12, 2018 4:31pm

      I had that if I recall (in French) but did a major cull of my books, especially cookbooks, as they are easy to rehome. So many are available now in the Montréal library system. As well as canneberges, there is another word for cranberries here, “atocas”, which is from an Indigenous language.

      Interesting about tourtes, as the most traditional one here is the tourtière, obviously named for the vessel it was cooked in. I’ve just made a couple of duck tourtières, and frozen them for the end-of-year holiday season…

  • Karin Pereira
    December 11, 2018 4:40pm

    I remember de Groot showing off his skills how to use the Cuisinart when it first came out. He demonstrated that it was easy to operate despite his blindness. Amazing.

  • Janice Linhares
    December 11, 2018 5:06pm

    David – It’s means it is. Its is different. Check it out. You’ve got it wrong.

  • Sheila
    December 11, 2018 9:34pm

    What is your new book, David?

  • Heln
    December 11, 2018 9:55pm

    A wonderful post, with a terrific recipe for an aperitif.
    I read The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth when I was studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. It is a wonderful book that evokes the spirit of wonderful restaurants, and a love and respect for food and tradition that is now sadly gone.
    I can’t find my copy to reread, so I’ll look for it online, and well as his other book.

  • Nancy E. Sutton
    December 11, 2018 11:10pm

    David, you can make all the grammy goofs you want… I always know exactly what you mean, and its the darn code writing that’s making the mistakes. Communicate away, please.

    • December 13, 2018 7:32am
      David Lebovitz

      I used to be surprised when I’d spent a few days developing and testing a recipe to share, writing it up, taking pictures, then coding and uploading it…then would get a comment that simply read, “You forgot a comma.”

      Now I think it’s kind of amusing (although since there’s no editor here, it’s good to have another set of eyes to find goofs) – but thanks & glad you like the posts! : )

  • dg
    December 12, 2018 9:53am

    long time lurker here, but the mention of auberge lured me into commenting! i’m coincidentally rereading it right now as well hehe :) it’s so evocative and so conducive to (even demanding of) rereading, i’ve never read anything like it.

    would love to see you try some of the sweeter recipes from that book someday — maybe even the flaming mountain of chamechaude? ;)

    • December 13, 2018 7:34am
      David Lebovitz

      I made the Gâteau de Savoie from the book a few years ago, but I sort of have a policy of only sharing one recipe from a book, out of fairness to the author, but yes, some of those recipes are pretty over-the-top…or at least close to it!

  • Sinjin
    December 12, 2018 5:10pm

    David, thanks for the drink recipe. Your timing was perfect. We were celebrating on the 11th and making a version of Black Forest cake. So we had this bottle of kirsch and there you were. We are calling it a Lebovitz and it is delicious. Merci encore.

    • December 13, 2018 7:34am
      David Lebovitz

      Happy you liked the drink. Nice that you had a bottle of kirsch handy. I always do :)

  • Jeanne
    December 13, 2018 3:07pm

    A wonderful book, and the drink sounds perfect for Christmas, after the egg nog, that is.

  • Ellen Safian
    December 13, 2018 10:23pm

    Hi David, Thanks for delicious brisket recipe for Chanukah. Just like for baking, your cooking instructions were perfect. Might you have a shareable noodle pudding recipe? My mother only made a savory one.

  • Amy B
    December 15, 2018 7:28am

    Love your posts and sense of humor (especially in the comments.) Looking forward to trying this recipe and variations over the holidays. What would you serve with this combo? Salty snacks – spiced nuts, olives? Suggestions from others are welcome, too!

  • Thea
    December 17, 2018 12:11am

    Read the Auberge book decades ago when MFK Fisher was still around to mention it, then went on to all his book. I was excited to see your first mention of the book a few years ago. At that time I gave a copy to my husband, and now he’s a fan too. He’s the one who made what we too are calling here The Lebovitz. Strong and enjoyably luscious. Thank you. And don’tcha love that lineage: de Groot, Fisher, Lebovitz.