Just as the red, white and blue festivities dim in the United States, the colors are set to light up again across the Francophone world on July 14. Bastille Day, France’s national holiday, commemorates the storming of the infamous military prison and the start of the French Revolution. Two hundred and 30 years later, the holiday still maintains a festive feel, with parades, pyrotechnics and parties lingering long into the night.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Paris for the excitement, be sure to plan a pit stop (or linger awhile) at Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Ritz Paris. The historic hotel is practically part of the fabric of the capital, having played host to 20th-century icons such as Coco Chanel, Ernest Hemingway and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
But the property boasts another surprising (yet equally storied) tie to the city it calls home. We caught up with Campari America’s National Portfolio Brand Ambassador and mixologist Anne Louis Marquis to chat about Ritz Paris’ partnership with famed liqueur Grand Marnier, how it shaped the city’s history and how you can toast Bastille Day in style.
Ritz Paris has a storied connection to another luxurious French brand. Could you elaborate on this history?
Absolutely. Grand Marnier was developed in 1880 by an inventive and dynamic gentleman named Louis-Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle. Louis-Alexandre had been working as an assistant in his wife’s family’s distillery and was struck with inspiration after tasting some exceptional cognac his father-in-law had brought back from a trip to the region.
He spent years experimenting with the then-unheard-of notion of blending the flavors of exotic bitter oranges and cognac. [This is] something that seems so natural today, but back then was seen as avant-garde and even audacious.
Finally, in 1880, Louis-Alexandre perfected his recipe. Ecstatic, he set out to promote his new creation, Curaçao Marnier, but his new brand wasn’t resonating with the public and he didn’t know what to do.
Louis asked for advice during a visit to influential hotelier and dear friend, César Ritz, founder of Ritz Paris. After tasting the delicious spirit, César recommended that Louis-Alexandre rename his product to capture the true grandeur of its flavors and, thus, Grand Marnier was born.
The name change helped to catapult Grand Marnier into popularity and made Mr. Marnier a very successful man. When César Ritz went to open his first hotel of his own, Mr. Marnier was the first investor in the project.
How are the two brands still connected today?
Ritz Paris reopened its doors in 2016 after a major four-year renovation. To mark such a momentous occasion and the unique relationship between the two French brands, Grand Marnier created an exclusive bottle for the hotel. The bottle boasts a personalized label and commemorative box that features both brands’ esteemed founders.
What’s the best way to enjoy this particular Grand Marnier blend?
With round and velvety notes from the aged cognacs along with nuances of orange essence and dried fruit, it is best enjoyed neat or over a single ice cube.
At the moment, Ritz Paris exclusively offers neat pours of Grand Marnier on its menu. Guests can choose from Grand Marnier Cuvée Spéciale Ritz Paris Centenaire or a taste of the grand signature expression that started it all, Cordon Rouge [the brand’s signature red bottle].
CELEBRATORY SUMMER SIPS
If you can’t get to France for Bastille Day but you’d still like to raise a glass, here are a few festive drinks enhanced with Grand Marnier.
Channel your inner Parisian with this spin on the French 75. This classic is elevated with Cordon Rouge’s twist of cognac and orange (2 ounces plus 1 ounce of lemon juice shaken with ice and then topped with champagne). Garnish with an orange or lemon peel.
Grand Raspberry Fizz
For an extra-celebratory feel, opt for a Grand Raspberry Fizz. This rose-tinted libation is delightfully refreshing with raspberry sorbet (1 ounce), lime juice (1 ounce), soda water (1¾ ounces), simple syrup (2 teaspoons), raspberry syrup (1 dash) and Grand Marnier (1¾ ounces).
It may not be French, but a margarita is a must when the weather heats up. Grand Marnier (1 ounce) adds a nice orange twist to the traditional drink. Skip the mix and use lime juice (1 ounce), agave nectar (1/2 ounce) and, of course, tequila (1 ounce) to keep things light on calories but big on flavor.
If you’re expecting a crowd, serve up a pitcher of Grand Collins. This citrusy (and easy to prepare) sip features 1 part lemon juice, 2 parts Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge, an effervescent finish of club soda and lemon wheel garnish.—Sarah Chanin