When the masterminds behind Grand Marnier invite you to an exclusive dinner at Montreal’s Ritz-Carlton, you accept – very graciously. That’s what I did a couple of weeks ago with the iconic brand of cognac blended with exotic bitter orange reached out to me. A selection of Montreal’s various media gathered for a VIP, invite only event at the Ritz to celebrate the rich tradition of Grand Marnier with an outstanding meal that celebrated the splendour of cognac.

gm-cordonrougeFor as long as I can remember, I’ve loved Grand Marnier. I’ve been blending it into my annual Christmas cocktails for over a decade and while I rarely gravitate towards spirits of any kind, I could sip on Grand Marnier all night long, getting lost in the aromas and warmth it brings. At the dinner we learned a lot about how Grand Marnier is painstaking made, it’s rich, rooted history in France’s Cognac region and how it blends perfectly into cocktails or how to enjoy it on it’s own.

orange-peelsGrand Marnier was created back in 1880 when Louis-Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle blended Caribbean oranges (Citrus Bigaradia) with cognac. Originally named Curaçao Marnier, the name changed over an animated dinner in Paris when Céasar Ritz (yes, you recognize the name) called for a grand name for a grand liqueur – from that was born Grand Marnier, yet another one of my many obsessions with France. Grand Marnier was served as a digestif at the Hotel Ritz Paris by top chef, Auguste Escoffier. It was very fitting that this first marriage between the two iconic brands brought us all together to celebrate at Montreal’s Ritz-Carlton.

img_2617The dinner itself was a wonderful four course meal featuring a delicious Crème Dubarry cauliflower soup paired with New Brunswick caviar to start. We continued with a salmon (Saumon printanier en Bellevue) entree that was accompanied by a Grand Collins. The cocktail was fresh which worked perfectly with the salmon. For the main course we were presented a dish of guinea fowl, served with turnip on a yellow wine sauce. We were served a Grand Old Fashioned – my favourite cocktail of the night. As a digestif, the table was delighted to try Grand Marnier’s Cuvée du Centenaire (a cognac that made it’s debut in 1927) which was followed by a buckthorn dessert and one final  sip of Grand Marnier’s Cuvée Quintessence – it’s not every day you get to experience a meal like this and I won’t forget it anytime soon.

Thank you to the Ritz-Carlton and to Grand Marnier for the exquisite evening. I’m looking forward to sipping my favourite bitter orange cognac all winter long.

Grand Old Fashioned

30ml Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge

30ml Wild Turkey 101

3 dashes Angostura

Orange twist to garnish