She was born in 1901 in Burgundy, France. By 1929, she had published her memoirs (introduced by Ernest Hemingway, no less). Her star had risen quickly, indeed. Alice Prin, best known as Kiki de Montparnasse, abandoned by her father and raised by her grandmother, was an artist’s model in Paris by the age of fourteen. Artist, Man Ray, shot hundreds of photographs of her. In many ways she was the heart of the Bohemian set in Paris during the 1920s and 30s. Fiercely independent, often destitute, she lived her own life without, according to her, overly many worries.
“All I need is an onion, a bit of bread, and a bottle of red wine. And I will always find somebody to offer me that.”
By sheer force of personality, she caught the attention of the artists populating the Left Bank cafés who painted her, photographed her, sculpted her, and made her famous. She came of age in the turmoil of a world war, and emerged unencumbered by the conventions and morals of the previous generation. A free spirit if there ever was one.
This drink is from the 1929 Cocktails de Paris when Kiki, the “Queen of Montparnasse,” was at her zenith.
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
¼ oz Cointreau
¼ oz Noyau Rocher (see below)
2 oz Gin
½ tsp. Simple Syrup
½ tsp. Lemon Juice
Stir with ice until cold and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
The measurements of the printed recipe are imprecise to say the least: a trickle of this and a splash of that. The original French recipe is appended below for your edification. After some experimentation, the above equivalents seem to work pretty well. This drink will come down largely to taste both in the gin chosen and the exact amounts of the other ingredients. Let your senses be your guide.
Speaking of ingredients, the mysterious Noyau Rocher causes a bit of a dilemma. In all likelihood, what was intended is today’s Noyau de Poissy, an apricot liqueur with an eau-de-vie, or brandy, base. As far as I can tell, at the time of this writing, this French liqueur is not imported into the States. Apricot brandy might serve but is going to be impossible to find so, as with the Prohibition Cocktail, you’ll have to make the choice whether to use a commercial or home-made apricot syrup with a little brandy or use Grand Marnier, an orange-infused brandy, instead. The other alternative is to use Creme de Noyaux which is available in the U.S. The familiar brands are also, as far as I can divine, mostly made of artificial flavors and colors. The choice, as always, is yours.
Alice Prin collapsed in the street and died in 1953 at the age of fifty-two. The café owners of the 6th Arrondissement paid for the funeral. An artist’s model, singer, muse, without inhibitions, and a swift right hand if you offended her, she nevertheless loved to laugh which, she said, helped her forget when she was hungry. According to Hemingway, Kiki “dominated the era of Montparnasse, more than Queen Victoria ever dominated the Victorian era.”
Original recipe from Cocktails de Paris, 1929
2 traits de Angostura Focking
Une filet de Cointreau
Une filet de Noyau Rocher
Un verre de Gordon Gin
Une tombée de sirop de sucre
Une tombée de jus de citron
Servir avec un zeste de citron
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A votre santé!