In Lillet’s series of aperitifs, Rouge is less well known and clearly overshadowed by it’s big brother Blanc. Lillet Rouge is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines, the drink is fortified with brandy made from lemon and orange and flavored with quinine. In France, it is drunk neat or with ice cubes and orange slice. In the US however, it is mainly used on various cocktails. Lillet Rouge is sold in 75 cl bottles and it costs 12€ in Lithuania.
The aroma is like with red wine, distantly fruity and has a slightly dry and sour flavour. The taste is sweet at first, but it quickly turns dry and bitter. The aftertaste is similar to dry red wine, slightly more bitter. The taste is not much different from basic red wine, it is clearly stronger, the alcohol used for fortification is clearly felt. The added quinine apparently becomes a bitter nuance and when drunk neat. So for drinking on it’s own, Lillet Rouge is not very pleasant. The herbiness in Lillet Blanco is not noticeable at all. I didn’t test it with the ice cubes, but with tonic and soda water, and the Rouge works well for that use.
Lillet Rouge is a bit similar to sweet Rosso vermouths, but the spiciness is clearly lower. Instead of Rosso, it should not be used in cocktails. The overall appearance of the Lillet Rouge is very faint, it reminds too much of cheap strong red wine and the desired aperitif effect is not noticeable. The sweet bitter combination remains faint and unspoken. It’s clearly the weakest output in the Lillet series.