Forbidden Fruit, the Obsession Begins…

April 23, 2010

Forbidden Fruit is one of those obscure, legendary liqueurs that you occasionally hear whispered about.  For me, it was the bottle.  Innocently enough, I was indulging in my love of black and white film, watching Cecil B. DeMille’s “Why Change Your Wife?” when I saw it – that beautiful Chambord-style bottle emblazoned with the name Forbidden Fruit.  Immediately I was struck with a desire to sample it, to feel that illicit pleasure of a temptress stealing a man from his loving wife.  Alas, a quick search proved that such a sample was not to be had.  I left it alone for 6 months, though I encountered the liqueur a few times in fantastically named cocktail recipes (I get a lot of entertainment from looking up cocktails with defunct ingredients on CocktailDB).  Then, whim struck again, and I did a little more research.  And, lo! a recipe posted online!  And someone else made it too!

Of course I had to make this so-called ‘Taboo Liqueur’.*  After several hours of labor and delightful smells wafting from the kitchen, I bottled it up for a week, then spent another hour or so straining, then bottled it up for another 3 weeks.  In the end, I was disappointed.  Mind you, I like grapefruit.  I like honey and brandy too.  Sounds like a fantastic combination.  But the recipe came out sour, bitter, and the component flavors wholly uncooperative.  Partly due to forgetting to add 1 c vodka (or another 1 c brandy), but I don’t think that would wholly fix the problem – just cut it.

So, in the face of less than promising results, I followed the usual routine – ignore it for a week or two, maybe mixing a drink here or there (it mixed fine at least), and come back to it after I’ve done a few other things.  Meanwhile, I was intrigued by the starfruits in the grocery store and decided to use up the remaining skinless half pummelo in my fridge.  I figured the Taboo approach was good, so I tossed the following together:

  • 1 starfruit, sliced
  • flesh of 1/2 pummelo, skin between sections removed
  • 1/6 c honey
  • 1/6 c agave nectar
  • 1/6 c water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 oz brandy (Remy Martin VSOP)

I heated the non-alcoholic ingredients, simmered them about 5 minutes, then added the brandy after it cooled.  I then matured the whole mess for close to two weeks, strained, and voila! a clean, slightly bitter, slightly sweet citrusy liqueur.  Less combative than the Taboo blend, and much more pleasant to drink straight.

During all this waiting, my disappointment lashed out one day, and I jumped online to look for bottles of Forbidden Fruit (to determine the proper color of the liqueur).  And what do I find, but some nice Canadian selling antique glassware on eBay!  Including of course, an old Forbidden Fruit bottle.  After a week of agonizing, and the bottle still up after an auction expired, I notice the “make an offer” button.  And so I did.  For $15, including shipping, that old 375 ml bottle is mine.  And it turns out I got a steal for that $15, as the owner never rinsed out the bottle!  Struggling to open a bottle sealed shut by liquor, sugar, and close to 4 decades, it hisses as it yields, and the cap comes off to release an amazing odor.  Immediately I have the bottle upside down to a cup, agonizing as it makes its molasses-in-January way down the sides of the bottle, while I analyze the odors wafting from the cap.  The few drops in the bottle were clear enough that I didn’t even notice them until I went to clean the sticker remnants off the outside, but the liquid is a faintly yellowed clear syrup.  It tastes bitter and citrusy on the tip of the tongue, but has a honeyed finish.  The brandy is mellow enough to tie the two together well, adding just a hint of spice to the blend.  The liqueur is, above all, subtle.  Not overly sweet, bitter enough to add interest in a cocktail, perfectly balanced.

And surprisingly, closer to my spur-of-the-moment starfruit concoction than Taboo.  I am eager to hunt down another pummelo and start afresh.  The last few drops of Forbidden Fruit are being carefully preserved for future reference and delight.  This will be a joyous (and agonizing) quest.

*  My version of the Taboo Liqueur recipe:

  • peel of 2 pummelos, sliced thinly, as little pith as possible
  • juice of 1 pummelo
  • peel of 1 blood orange, sliced thinly, as little pith as possible
  • juice of 3 blood oranges
  • peel of 1 lemon, sliced thinly, as little pith as possible
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 c honey
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 c brandy (Remy Martin VS)

Heat all ingredients except alcohol together, simmer for 10-12 minutes

One Response to “Forbidden Fruit, the Obsession Begins…”

  1. mariajette Says:

    Wow– that’s a fantastic story! I came upon your blog while doing an idle search for Forbidden Fruit, something I’ve wondered about while perusing numerous old cocktail books over the last decade (another one I’d love to find is Caperitif). I’d always imagined that it was a passion fruit liqueur, for no particular reason. Today, I saw that THE ROYAL CORONATION COCKTAIL BOOK (2008 reprint of the 1937 original) had so many FF recipes that I started wondering about it again, and lo! there’s a super glossary in the back, which says this about FF:

    An American liqueur. The flavour is a mixture of grapefruit and orange. Colour, a red flame. Sweet, with a bitter aftertaste. High alcoholic content.

    Sounds like you captured quite a bit of that list!

    A couple of other intriguing, and now extinct, liqueurs from this same glossary:

    Crême de Pecco: A Dutch liqueur with a tea flavour, semi-sweet, colourless.

    Crême de Thé: A colourless French liqueur, with the flavour of tea.

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