The Eiffel Tower was dedicated in Paris in a ceremony conducted by its designer, Gustave Eiffel, on March 31, 1889. Here at The Drunkard’s Almanac we see that as good reason to proclaim the La Tour Eiffel cocktail as Drink of the Day. But given our mission statement we’re not going to leave it at that. Gustave, you see, may be best known for his spire in Paris but he also designed several legendary distilleries.
The Eiffel Tower
The whole Eiffel Tower thing happened because the French government decided to have an international exposition in 1889 for the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. They decided to build a monument in central Paris and announced a design contest. Gustave Eiffel was a brilliant engineer with his own firm, Compagnie des Établissements Eiffel, and he set two of his senior engineers, Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguier to the task.
They went through a couple of rounds of design before Gustave himself got enthusiastic, and after refinement the design went on to win the commission among more than 100 entries. Eiffel was already well established as a bridge builder, which gave him familiarity with the nuances of metal construction. This helped him stay under budget and complete the tower in less than two years. This is remarkable given that only one worker lost their life in the process, which in the day was remarkably low for a project of that size. By contrast, roughly 25,000 workers died making the Panama Canal.
The Eiffel Tower was the world’s tallest manmade structure until the Chrysler Building in New York was completed in 1930. Of course the Chrysler Building has gargoyles, which gives it its own je ne sais quoi. Both structures still stand, but that’s not really why we’re here. Eiffel, you see, designed lots of other things: buildings, bridges, railroad stations. But most importantly he designed several distilleries.
Eiffel’s More Important Work – Distilleries
Sure, the Eiffel tower gets the tourists, the bridges carry people and goods, but none of those structures produce booze. Relevant to our interests, the distilleries are the obvious stars of his life’s work.
Eiffel designed several notable facilities: the Caves Byrrh, Combier Distillery, Remy-Martin distillery, Suze Distillery and the Distillerie Henri-Louis Pernod.
The Caves Byrrh, built to produce the aromatized wine Byrrh, are actually a cellar. The Eiffel Tower was obviously just a warmup for this work, which was completed in 1892. Demand was so high for Byrrh that Eiffel designed a railroad spur for delivery of supplies directly into the building. He even included the world’s largest oak vat of over 1 million liters.
Moving on to what is directly applicable to the La Tour Eiffel cocktail, we get into the true distilleries: Combier, Suze, Henri-Louis Pernod and Remy Martin Cognac. In their facility, Combier makes Combier liqueur, Jade Liqueurs absinthe and La Maison Fontaine Absinthe. Pernod, of course, started out making absinthe, and when absinthe was banned, Pastis. They have expanded significantly after becoming Pernod-Ricard and gobbling up a variety of brands. Suze itself was even launched at the 1889 Paris exhibition and is now under the Pernod-Ricard corporate behemoth.
The La Tour Eiffel Cocktail
We mention these distilleries not only because Eiffel designed them but because they make spirits necessary for the drink. Combier may not be a familiar name, but their namesake liqueur is an orange liqueur – a triple sec – and they claim (as does Cointreau) to be the original. You can use whichever you have around in the recipe.
The late Gary ‘Gaz’ Regan invented the La Tour Eiffel cocktail during a trip to the Cognac region of France. He was somehow imspired to use French ingredients and create something that was his interpretation of what a Sazerac might be if it had been invented there rather than in New Orleans. It was an appropriate quest since the Sazerac was made with Sazerac de Forge Cognac before Rye whiskey. Its method of preparation is, for all practical purposes, the same as the Sazerac. Only this one you serve in a stemmed rather than Old Fashioned glass.
Suze itself is a gentian-based aperitif wine from the Pyrenees region of France. Salers is an acceptable substitute, but is not from an Eiffel-designed distillery. Of course you can substitute brands of Cognac, triple sec or absinthe based on what’s at hand, but if you’re going all in for La Tour Eiffel you be sure to use the brands noted above.
La Tour Eiffel Cocktail
- Champagne flute
- Pre-chill a Champagne flute.
- Splash small amount of Absinthe into chilled glass and swirl to coat inside. Discard excess.
- Add remaining ingredients to your trusty mixing glass.
- Add ice and stir to chill.
- Strain into Champagne flute.
- Garnish with lemon twist.
- Queue up your Edith Piaf playlist.
Brilliant! The Eiffel tower was meant to be torn down after the exposition , yet here we are today – a toast to the tower & the cocktail , both still standing!