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Kina Lillet

Kina Lillet is a brand of aperitif wine created in France, however, it many respects, it no longer exists as it was reformulated in 1986 and rebranded as Lillet Blanc. The rationale behind the reformulation was to keep up with the current trends of the day by making the drink much fruitier and less bitter.

In essence, Kina Lillet is/was a blend of 85% Bordeaux wines and 15% macerated liqueurs, mostly citrus liqueurs from the peels of sweet oranges from Spain and Morocco and the peels of bitter green oranges from Haiti.

Kina Lillet has left quite a legacy as a drink, due to its part in the 1953 novel, Casino Royale, in which he invents a Kina Lillet Martini and then names it the Vesper Martini, after one of his love interests in the movie. Kina Lillet is also mentioned in some of the most popular and famous Cocktail Recipe books, such as The Savoy Cocktail Book, which was written by legendary mixologist Harry Craddock.

When Kina Lillet was reformulated this caused a bit of a headache for cocktail bartenders, as some classic cocktails, such as the Corpse Reviver Number 2 clearly stipulated Kina Lillet as one of the ingredients. The problem with Lillet Blanc for many cocktail experts was that it was not bitter enough to be used effectively in such cocktails. Some cocktail bars began to add quinine powder with the Lillet Blanc, to give it that extra “nip”,  but it was later agreed that Cocchi Aperitivo Americano was the perfect substitute for the original Kina Lillet and hence is now a popular addition to cocktail bars across the world.