In the event you’re not familiar with 1920’s slang (as I wasn’t prior to writing this article), “Tell it to Sweeney” is what you’d say to someone when you believe something to be untrue. Today’s equivalent would be “Yeah, I don’t buy it”, which is exactly what I thought when I was invited to a cool Grand Marnier event.
When I think Grand Marnier, I think about an after-dinner digestif, older men with cigars, or an alcohol for cooking or coffees at best. Cool is the furthest thing from my mind. But I’m always up for new experiences and when I was told that it was being held at a secret location, it piqued my curiosity. I had a feeling it was going to be fun, or at least make for a good story, so when I was told I could bring a plus one, I wanted to bring someone who could really use the night out and who’d be up for the adventure. I held a flash contest for the Bossing Up community, asking them to tell me why they needed a night out, and the best answer would win. I found my date but at that point, I still didn’t know where we were going.
I got the code to enter before the location was revealed. THERE WAS A CODE TO ENTER. I don’t know about you, but as a kid, I had a secret handshake for everything, so I got pretty excited. When we arrived, there was a couple who didn’t remember the code. They were only off by one number but was therefore refused. Whatever this was, they were taking it really seriously. When it was our turn to give the code, which fortunately we had right, a bouncer the size of a small building opened the door and it was as if we stepped foot into a time machine because suddenly we were in the twenties.
We were greeted by flapper girls, welcomed to the bar by men in suspenders with twisted mustaches (it’s funny how the hipster style transitions seamlessly between eras), and the venue was transformed into an underground speakeasy from the prohibition days. I didn’t even realize I was at Scarlet Exclusive, which is one of my favorite spots in the city.
After enjoying a sidecar cocktail, which was a delicious blend of bitter, sweet, and citrusy flavors, we were escorted to the dining hall which was adorned with jewels and flowers, and pearls were draped over every server. This was not a twenties themed party with Halloween decorations, this was an upscale, Hollywood-like production. It was probably the most luxurious experience I’ve had in Montreal.
The singer and musician were spot on. The tone of the singer’s voice and their song selection seriously made me question what year I was in and if it was just a hallucination. Even their facial expressions, body language and the dainty movement of the singer’s hand as she grabbed the antique mic was incredibly orchestrated. The menu offered a variety of different pastries and all you can drink Grand Marnier cocktails, along with their 100-year-old liqueur on ice.
After trying the Grand Nuage and Watch Over Me cocktails, the Sidecar was still my favorite. It tasted like a fancy grownup lemonade. Made by mixologist Aaron Male, the ingredients are Grand Marnier (duh), pink lemonade syrup, with a dehydrated lime as a garnish. It’s definitely one to add to your recipe deck for future events. Though the other cocktails weren’t to my taste, because I prefer sweet drinks, it was impressive how one drink would taste so different from the next.
As women with a marketing background, my date and I were thrilled when the Brand Manager for Grand Marnier Canada came to our table to introduce herself and ask how we were enjoying the event. We expected Grand Marnier would be launching a new flavor or announcing something big. To our surprise, she told us that the purpose of the event was to educate the younger generation that Grand Marnier is not this old fogey drink that can only be served on ice or in fruitcake, it’s a versatile liqueur that goes great in cocktails or simply with tonic.
This is a concept that they’re bringing across Canada, and graciously left us all with a cocktail book which allows us to try all the cocktails they served and more at home. I found it interesting that their approach to target a younger audience revolved around a theme from the twenties. I questioned their marketing strategy momentarily but then I looked around and appreciated that they stuck to their roots and invested so much in offering a memorable experience. Had they done something more modern, it surely would not have had the same effect. Grand Marnier is cool after all… I will tell that to Sweeney, and everyone else who asks!