The Rising Star: A Vodka Cocktail Starring Lillet Blanc
Lillet blanc is a versatile ingredient that shines alone and in a wide variety of cocktails. Usually a summertime staple, we also love it paired with less summery ingredients (like the fresh grapefruit juice in the Rising Star), and we don’t hesitate to use it all year long.
We created this cocktail for a performing arts fundraiser. It would make a terrific signature cocktail for an Oscar party or other awards night event.
The Rising Star makes a perfect single cocktail but is equally good made in batches for a party.
What is Lillet blanc?
Lillet blanc is a French aperitif wine. It's made from Bordeaux grapes, aromatized with herbs, spices, and citrus, and fortified (to 17% ABV — stronger than wine, but gentle for a cocktail ingredient) with macerated fruit liqueurs. It's similar to vermouth in those respects. In fact, I once heard a NJ bartender refer to it as "French vermouth," which might make any sense at all if a large portion of actual vermouth didn't come from France.
Not too sweet, not too bitter, Lillet blanc is great on its own over ice, and it also makes an amenable cocktail ingredient.
We keep a bottle or two of Lillet blanc in the fridge all summer long, for sipping alone and for adding a splash to anything from Prosecco to more complex cocktails. This year we had some lingering after the season ended, and I decided to pair it with some less summery ingredients.
When we hosted a fundraiser for our school district’s performing arts club toward the end of September, I wasn’t yet ready to ease my grip on this delightful bottle. Since the event was all about supporting our rising stars — and since we had a generous vodka donation from a local brand — the cocktail practically created itself. Lillet blanc pairs beautifully with vodka and grapefruit juice in this smooth, easy drinking Rising Star, which we garnished with a simple slice of star fruit. (There’s no star fruit in the drink, so this isn’t best practice, and I know it. The things we do for our kids.)
- 1.5 ounces Lillet Blanc
- 1.5 ounces vodka
- 3 ounces fresh grapefruit juice
- Starfruit slice, to garnish
- Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice.
- Add Lillet Blanc, vodka, and grapefruit juice and shake until chilled.
- Strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a slice of star fruit, and serve. You can also serve this cocktail with over ice.
Feel free to make this cocktail in a big batch in a pitcher to pour. And if you'd rather not squeeze your own grapefruits, we've had great success with cold-pressed bottled grapefruit juice like Evolution Fresh.