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  • Writer's pictureAlex Barbatsis

On French Spirits and Grandparents

Updated: Feb 18, 2021

My Grandparents Jerome and Eileen Ruffenach


I’ve never been shy about my love of French booze. Cliff Notes: It is all great. French distillers and vintners keep the sanctity of deliciousness by arguing over specifics of where grapes can be grown, what wood can be used, size of barrels, if different grapes can be used for different spirits, etc. Changes do rarely occur for sustainability or economic reasons, but the main focus is keeping tradition alive. When heritage is this delicious, I’ll happily drink history.

There’s also a personal reason I have much love for France. My Grandfather, Jerome Ruffenach, fought for the United States in WW2. He drove a Higgins Boat to land US soldiers on the beaches at Normandy on D-Day. He watched his fellow troops be shot, drown, and crawl their way through sand while having to go back for more, wave after wave, watching the horror again and again until the beach was finally liberated. Afterwards, he was stationed throughout France and fought alongside the underground French resistance. I think anyone who has a conversation with someone about their experience with WW2 can recall that not many details were given about their time fighting for freedom. The one thing my Grandfather told us this:

“The French are tough as hell.” -Jerome Ruffenach

This stuck with me because of the jokes of France surrendering, being wimpy, etc. Just because a government succumbs to fascists does not mean its people do.

Anyway, this is a roundabout way to say I’d love to open French style little restaurant/bar at some point. Anyone who has dined in France can vouch for the small places with the grill right behind the bar or four seats inside with a small rail outside to drink rosé and pound oysters and escargot.

I’ve recently built such a place in my Animal Crossing New Horizons town. It is called Fishyssoise and is a causal wood fire seafood joint on a cliff overlooking the ocean. There are some table clothed areas with gold plates, gold candlesticks and a small stool dedicated for a champagne bucket, but the small bar is more casual with no gold, but a small red windflower as the only adornment. Here’s the cocktail menu I’ve designed. I think they mostly sell Champagne (hell yea) but it’s important to have options in life. At least for when I walk past the tables and belly up to smell the freshly picked windflowers dancing in the salty breeze.

Champagne Cocktail: Champagne, Housemade Elderflower Sugar Cube, Angostura Bitters

Pomme Fashioned: Calvados, Rich Apple Syrup, Angostura Bitters

Classic Sazerac: Cognac, Peychaud Bitters, Sugar, Absinthe

A Very French 75: Armagnac, Fresh Lemon, Sugar, Champagne

50/50 Sidecar: Cognac, Calvados, Lemon, Orange Liqueur, Sugar

You & Bijou: Young Old Tom Gin, Blanc Vermouth, Green Chartreuse

Ti Punch: Rhum Agricole, Lime Oil Sugar

Narita De Gaulle: Cognac, Hazelnut Orgeat, Chocolate Mole Bitters

Dark Star: Benedictine, Amaro, Sparkling Rosé, Pistachio Oil

Of course the Wine Cellar is pretty deep, but maybe the bartender can convince you to try an Pommeau as an after dinner drink. If not, oh well. More for me.

Quick Glossary of French stuff:

  • Cognac: Double Distilled Aged Grape Based Brandy from specific regions in France

  • Armagnac: Single Distilled Aged Grape Based Brandy from specif regions in France

  • Calvados: Apple Brandy from Normandy, France

  • Pommeau: A blend of Calvados and Apple Juice

  • Rhum Agricole: Cane Sugar Spirit similar to Rum, originating in former French colonies in the Caribbean

  • Benedictine: French Herbal Liqueur made from Honey, Aloe, Fir Cones, Vanilla, etc. Originally made by Monks In Normandy, France

  • Green Chartruese: French Herbal Liqueur with a natural green color. Still made by Carthusian Monks in Voiron, France

  • Champagne: Sparkling wine made in a specific region of France (Best stuff In the world)

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