How The St-Germain Cocktail Got Its Name

St. Germaine

There are some cocktails that can claim long, storied histories. In contrast, others are still in the process of building those up. The St-Germain Cocktail is very much an example of the latter rather than the former. After all, it was invented by Rob Cooper in 2007, meaning that it has been around for more than a decade but less than two decades. As a result, while the St-Germain Cocktail has managed to become popular in a wide range of places, it hasn’t had the time needed to collect the sheer number of stories that some of its older counterparts can claim. Content-wise, the St-Germain Cocktail has seen some changes since its intention. The inclusion of St-Germain is still a thing, which makes sense because that is its single most iconic element. However, the original recipe called for it to be mixed with sauvignon blanc while modern recipes tend to call for it to be mixed with either Champagne or some other kind of sparkling wine. Other than that, there is a club soda. Finally, the resulting creation is garnished using a twist of lemon.

How Did the St-Germain Cocktail Get Its Name?

The name of the St-Germain Cocktail can be traced back a few steps. For starters, the cocktail is named for its single most iconic element, which would be St-Germain. Supposedly, Rob Cooper was inspired to come up with it when he tried an elderflower-based cocktail at a London bar in 2001. The result was an elderflower liqueur made using the petals of Sambucus nigra collected from the department of Savoie in the region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes in France. As for the name, St-Germain was named for the neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris’s sixth arrondissement.

Said neighborhood is notable for a number of things. For instance, Saint-Germain-des-Prés was a working-class neighborhood in the first half of the 20th century. Chances are good that interested individuals can guess that it wasn’t in very good condition by the postwar period. Despite that, Saint-Germain-des-Prés managed to gain a reputation for the diversity of the locals as well as the non-conformism of the locals, which can be explained by a number of factors. For example, it was home to well-known bars and cafes. Simultaneously, it offered low rents while being situated very close to a part of the University of Paris, thus making it a popular choice for students. Combined, that caused Saint-Germain-des-Prés to become the center of existentialism in the 1940s and 1950s. Said movement was very concerned with topics such as the value of human existence as well as the meaning of human existence, so it was never limited to a single time and place. Having said that, it is no coincidence that some of the best-known figures such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir are associated with it.

In any case, Saint-Germain-des-Prés is named for the parish church of the same name. Said institution can trace its roots to the 540s. However, the oldest building that exists in the present time would be the western tower, which was built sometime around 1000. The place started out as the Abbaye Sainte-Croix-Saint-Vincent. Later, it took on the name Saint-Germain-des-Prés for a couple of reasons. First, it was meant to honor Saint Germain of Paris. Second, it stood in the middle of meadows, so it is called “Saint Germain of the Meadows” for the sake of distinguishing it from another Parisian church named for the same figure. Over time, Saint-Germain-des-Prés has seen much. To name an example, it was plundered by vikings in the ninth century. After which, it wasn’t rebuilt until 1014.

Who Was Saint Germain of Paris?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Saint Germain of Paris was the bishop of Paris. Specifically, he was the bishop of Paris named by Childebert I, who was the same ruler who founded what would go on to become Saint-Germain-des-Prés. For those who are unfamiliar, this would have been long before the creation of France as a country. Generally speaking, France is considered to have evolved from the Kingdom of West Francia, which was one of the successor states that emerged from the breakup of the Carolingian Empire. Childebert I wasn’t just from before the Kingdom of France. He was of the Merovingian dynasty, which ruled the Franks from about the middle of the 5th to 751 when it was deposed by the Carolingian dynasty. Moreover, Childebert I was one of the four sons of Clovis I, who was the first to rule as the King of the Franks from 509 to 511. That means that he lived just a short while after the traditional fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476.

Contrary to popular belief, the Western Roman Empire wasn’t just swept away by a tide of unwashed barbarians. Instead, the new rulers of its former territories were quite willing to make use of Romans as well as Roman institutions. For proof, consider Germain, a Gallo-Roman of aristocratic background who went into the church. He earned a reputation for being an austere, industrious man. However, it is amusing to note that he also earned a reputation for being generous, so much so that the monks under him rebelled because they were concerned that he would give away everything. Still, that seems to have made Germain a well-respected figure because he was the one chosen to become the new bishop of Paris when his predecessor died in 555.

As the story goes, Germain had a very positive effect on Childebert I. Thanks to that, he was able to relieve the suffering of the common people while cementing the position of Christianity among the Franks. However, Germain wasn’t able to maintain the same kind of relationship with Childebert I’s successors. The Merovingian dynasty liked to divide a dead ruler’s territories among his heirs, which was a recipe for civil war between those heirs. Childebert I had no sons, so his territories went to his brother Chlothar I. Subsequently, Chlothar I’s death saw his territories divided up among his four surviving sons, who promptly went to war with one another. Germain tried to push for peace, but his relationship with the four wasn’t the best. This can be seen in how he was the first to excommunicate a Merovingian king, which happened because Charibert I had two sister-wives plus two other wives. Similarly, this can be seen in his inability to convince the others to stop fighting one another. Still, Germain died a well-respected individual, as shown by how he is considered to be a saint by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.

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