Selling Aperitifs in an MGD World

Can St-Germain creator Robert Cooper bring back the amuse-bouche cocktail?

Some brand creators prosper by falling in step with established trends; Robert Cooper is not one of them.

In 2007, the third-generation distiller created St-Germain, an artisanal French liqueur for the U.S. market (despite the fact that liqueurs pale in popularity compared to other spirits). He chose to distill his liqueur with elderflower blossoms (never mind that the delicate flowers bloom for only four weeks in the late spring). Finally, after all the glass makers he approached told him the belle époque-style bottle he had in mind was impossible to make, Cooper bought some art-store clay, cast a prototype himself, and showed them that it wasn’t. Cooper’s gambles have paid off; St-Germain—no small indulgence at $40 a bottle—is now a brisk seller in 48 states.

Now, Cooper has set out on another lonesome road: He wants to return the aperitif to the average American dinner table. Good luck with that, mon ami. As a recent story in the dining section of The New York Times put it, aperitifs “affect some Americans like headlights do a deer.” The problem is the name. Be it aperitif or aperitivo, the before-dinner, palette-stimulating cocktail just sounds too European, too complicated to make, so most Americans don’t. “The aperitif is lost upon the American culture,” Cooper laments, adding that our convenience-driven culture is no help. “I mean, most Americans want to buy a six-pack of MGD and watch Dancing With the Stars,” Cooper says. “They don’t want to make anything.”

So Cooper set out to beat them at their own game with a new product that’s just hit the market: the totally convenient, 100 percent dummy-proof aperitif maker.

Liquor stores in select markets are now taking delivery of a special kit that pairs a 750 ml bottle of St-Germain with a custom-blown carafe scored with three filler lines. All you need to do is pour: Champagne to the first line, club soda to the second, and (of course) a copious splash of St-Germain to top it off. Guess what, Homer: You’ve just made an aperitif all by yourself. “We’re realistic about the sort of bandwidth consumers have in terms of their ability to mix cocktails,” Cooper adds.

Early sales have been promising enough that Cooper just started rolling out a smaller version of the aperitif kit for use in restaurants. The single-serve carafe will allow diners to play bartender at their own tables. “It empowers the consumer to drink to the tastes they like,” Cooper says.

Just think of the points such aperitif-making skills could score on a first date. Oh, wait a sec, Cooper already has. The front of the kit promises: “Amusez vos amis.”