If you’re wondering what to drink for Bastille Day on July 14 we have the answer. We’re mixing up the Liberté Cocktail in honor of the holiday, Fête Nationonale Français, or French National Day. As you know it marks that moment in the French Revolution when the fortress and prison representing royal authority fell.
Thoughts of the French Revolution may also conjure up images of Marie Antoinette. But we’ve already covered that with the Guillotine cocktail for the anniversary of the day she was relieved of her head. And, of course, there’s the Napoleon cocktail if you prefer a slightly later period.
Marie’s husband, Louis XVI, was having a lousy time in the late 1780s. France was still feeling the effects of an economic crisis caused in part by having intervened in the American Revolution. This was further fueled by an regressive tax system and poor harvests. The Estates-General met to deal with this in 1789 but were held back by the Second Estate, representing the nobility.
The commoners were not in a good mood and a few months later the Third Estate, with representatives drawn from the commoners, reorganized itself as the National Assembly with the purpose of creating a French constitution. Louis XVI was not keen on this idea but was forced to acknowledge it.
By that time Paris was on the verge of insurrection. Francois Mignet, a journalist, wrote that the city was “intoxicated with liberty and enthusiasm.” Soon enough, on July 14, 1789, members of the Third Estate stormed the Bastille. They had already set themselves upon the Hotel des Invalides where they were able to gather around 30,000 muskets, but those were without powder or shot. The gunpowder was in the Bastille, presumably for safer storage. That didn’t last.
Louis XVI learned of this event the next morning, when the Duke of La Rochefoucauld told him. “Is it a revolt?” asked Louis XVI. The duke replied, “No, sire, it’s not a revolt, it’s a revolution.”
This didn’t go well for Louis XVI and he got his head lopped off by a guillotine. No surprise there. As far as Bastille Day goes, plans for a celebration were already in the works the same year it happened, and the first event took place in 1790. It continues to this day, with pomp and ceremony.
The Liberté Cocktail
In pondering appropriate drinks for Bastille Day we immediately turn toward various French liqueurs, as we did with things like the Champs Elysees, Brandy Crusta, or the Stinger. Today we’re going to employ Lillet Blanc, a nice summery infused wine aperitif from France. It’s readily available at your local liquor provider.
Lillet developed the Liberté recipe themselves. They noted that “The white stripe on the French flag represents freedom, and so with this cocktail we offer the modern drinker the freedom to do things differently, enjoying Lillet in a Martini rather than vermouth.”
Martini drinkers may scoff at this concept, as Lillet rather than Gin is the primary ingredient. But the reality is it’s analogous to a reverse Martini, in which the Gin and Dry Vermouth proportions are reversed. Our Editorial Board does not believe that Lillet meant to deceive, but we seek to ensure that our readers are never misled.
The Liberté Cocktail
- Nick and Nora or coupe glass
- 3 oz Lillet Blanc
- 1 oz Gin
- 2 dash Orange bitters
- Garnish: Orange twist
- Add all ingredients to your trusty mixing glass.
- Add ice and stir to chill.
- Strain into pre-chilled cocktail glass.
- Express twist over drink and add to glass.
- Sing La Marseillaise or other appropriate tune for Bastille Day.
- Rinse and repeat.