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‘In the Soup’ III

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A post script on some of the alcoholic vicissitudes of life by Swaffield Pike

One of the subjects I can bang on about incessantly (and be exceptionally boring about), is the wonderful country of Belgium. Without wishing to drone on about it now and discourage my two readers from ever casting an eye over this tawdry column again, I will say that you could do much worse than stopping by Belgium one day and sample the ever flowing supplies of beer, the excellent cuisine and soak up some marvellous architecture and hospitality. However, there is a reason I mention it now even though it is not by any means, a cause for celebration.

My last dispatch covered the joys of the top shelf forgotten spirits stating there can be some treasure to be found if one exercises a degree of prudency when it comes to ingestion. All is not sunshine and lollipops unfortunately, and one perilous spirit which is thankfully less than rare is the worryingly named Parfait D’Amour. Similar to the American Crème Yvette (the names get no better, sadly), this is a violet liqueur which I have only seen for sale in Belgium. I would wager a £20 note that very few will have ever heard of it simply because it is mercifully scarce on the open market and only those hell bent on eating garden flowers would ever consider drinking them.

My introduction to it was due to an evening soirée at a friend’s house where a 1980s cocktail manual which had been so coveted for the intervening years, was produced. I view anything from the 1980s with some degree of suspicion (especially flecked trousers) and most of the drinks contained horrors such as coconut liqueur, cream and enough sugar frosting to pave a way to Auckland. In any case, the more ‘Bohemian’ section of the book had a list of unusual drinks for the more adventurous which not only interested me intensely but mentioned the fabled Crème Yvette.

Skip forward some months to one of my trips to the splendid city of Bruges and I was in one of my favourite ‘beer caves’ trying of all things, some Belgian whiskey (much at the insistence of the owner). Lurking in a corner display were numerous bottles of brightly coloured liquids in a pyramid fashion and I flippantly asked if one was the exiguous ‘Parfait’. Bad luck would have it that there was and nine euros later I was transporting a bottle of the intensely purple stuff back to my hotel. Knowing what I know now, I shudder to think what the other colours involved.

Having presented it with some glee to my friend a few weeks later, I received a text later that day which is unrepeatable here and cast doubt on my lineage. Of course, I had to try it and gingerly called around some days later (once the flames had died down) to make the following observations:

  1. it is as close as you can get to finding a safe way of drinking toilet cleaner
  2. the flavour repeats on you for over 24 hours

Not at all nice and I have since found it for sale in the cities of Mons and Liege but nowhere else, thankfully (if in Liege, do visit the Maison du Peket though as that really is quite splendid).

The fate of my friend’s cocktail book is unknown although I fear it may have met with an untimely end just like other horrors from that time. The Parfait has however survived – two sips short of a full bottle, it will remain on the dusty floor of the pantry, unloved and undisturbed for many, many years.

Illustration by Kate Costigan

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Swaffield Pike has spent the last 20 years wandering around the world sniffing out fine foods and alcoholic preparations, in a completely unprofessional capacity. Generally considered to be harmless if fed and watered appropriately, he has strong ties with Brazil, Canada, France and Belgium and is often lead astray by his moustache.