This cocktail is named after Montparnasse, an area of Paris where the Gare Montparnasse is situated in, a train station that’s surrounded by crêperies. Each train station in Paris serves a different region of France; The gare du Nord serves the North of France, the gare de l’Est serves Alsace, and the gare Saint-Lazare transports people to Normandy.
The gare Montparnasse is where you take the train if you want to go to Brittany, which is famous not only for its crêpes and buckwheat galettes, but also for its butter, sea salt, and apples. While they don’t get the same international press, I once had a basket of fraises de Plougastel that I bought at a market in Brittany, which may have been the best strawberries I’ve ever had in my life. The outdoor markets are terrific in the region, too. I once found a woman selling freshly-made butter that had the same yellow hue of sunflower petals and had big chunks of sea salt crystals in it, at the market in Dinan. After I bought one block, I realized the error of my ways and I went back to buy as many blocks as I could to bring back to Paris with me. So there are many reasons to go to Brittany.
Normandy is just next to Brittany, and there’s some overlap, bien sûr. Especially in the apple department. Lambig is the apple brandy made in Brittany, and Calvados its better-known cousin, made in Normandy.
I don’t know quite where the origins of this cocktail come from, and there’s a little bit of rivalry between Lambig and Calvados, which I’ll let others sort out, but I do know that Lambig is tough to find outside of the region while Calvados is available far and wide, albeit for a bit of a price. (In the U.S., Apple Jack is an good substitute in drinks, and St. George makes an apple brandy in California, as well as several other distilleries.)
To amplify the apple flavor, use apple juice or cider to do just that. I’ve made it with homemade Vin de sureau (elderflower wine) from the recipe in Drinking French (pg. 128), in place of the white wine for a double-dose of elderflower power.
- 1 1/2 ounces Calvados
- 3/4 ounce elderflower liqueur
- 1/2 ounce freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 ounce apple juice or cider, or dry white wine
- apple slice, for garnish
- Pour the Calvados, elderflower liqueur, lemon juice and apple juice (or white wine) into a cocktail shaker.
- Fill the shaker 3/4s full of ice, cover and shake vigorously until well-chilled, about 15 to 20 seconds.
- Strain the drink into a chilled cocktail couple. Garnish with an apple slice.