It all began with a mysterious invitation to a Cordon Rouge Room Speakeasy, a Grand Marnier top secret event. Ok. I’ll bite. My interest is piqued. I RSVP to the date, and to a location unspecified but they will text me the address two days ahead. No problem, I think…as long as it’s in the Toronto area. Oh, and I would need to know the password to get in. Gulp. What am I getting myself into?
Paying homage to the Prohibition era of the 1920s (think Great Gatsby) and in true speakeasy fashion, Grand Marnier transports us back in time to indulge in decadence and opulence while sipping cocktails and nibbling sweet bite-sized desserts. Honestly, I did not know what to expect other than looking forward to drinking Grand Marnier, an orange flavoured cognac (if you missed my previous post, I did a write up on the Grand Tonic). Boy, was I wrong. Finding the location was a bit tricky, but the hulking well dressed bodyguards who may have time travelled from Al Capone’s gang, were hovering around a nondescript door was a clue! After whispering the secret password, I was allowed to go through the door that led down to a dark stairwell (Ok, hold the railing I tell myself). As my eyes adjusted to the candle lit glow that bounced around the room against the amber bottles of Grand Marnier lining the bar, a welcome drink was proffered by the bartender. Sweet, but tart at the same time. It was called the Grand Sidecar, a combination of Grand Marnier, pink lemonade tea syrup and a dehydrated slice of lime. My taste buds were awake!
When other guests trickled into the reception area, the hostesses, in beautifully beaded fringed flapper dresses, escorted us behind lush velvety curtains to reveal the Cordon Rouge Room. Immediately I was transported to the Roaring Twenties. Sultry jazz music lulled the guests to their tables as our hostess took our drink order. I had the Grand Nuage, Tequila and fresh lime juice added to Grand Marnier with an orange cloud (yes, a truly magical drink complete with an orange infused cloud of vapour), while my date got Watch Over Me, (Grand Marnier, Wild Turkey, lemon juice, Bittered Sling Clingstone Peach Bitters, Rosemary Springs and topped with sparkling water). All delicious but my favourite was Grand Marnier 100th, neat on the rocks with their Cuvee du Centenaire cognac, a blend of the best XO cognacs aged in oak casks for at least 10 years. All their drinks paired perfectly with their exquisite desserts like the Finacier (browned butter almond cake), the chocolate molten lava cake, the chocolate and salted caramel macaron and my favourite was the choux a la creme caramelisee.
Celebrating their 137th year, our waitress explained that Grand Marnier is made from a rare variety of oranges from the Caribbean and she showed us a bowl of dried orange peels. We smelled it, but I couldn’t smell anything (how many drinks have I had by now?!) Then she asked us to break it in half and a fragrant explosion of citrusy oranges was released. Wow! No wonder there’s such mystery and “appeal” with Grand Marnier (pun intended!). Here’s a fun fact: Did you know that Grand Marnier was initially called “Curacao Marnier” until Cesar Ritz (of the famous hotelier, not the cracker) suggested “Grand” Marnier since the taste was so grand.
The Cordon Rouge Room was definitely a unique experience, and Grand Marnier spared no detail indulging us in a sensory experience like no other. The live music, the machine that spewed out orange vapours as you walk in, the soft luxurious seats, the gold and red lighting shimmered off the various beautiful limited edition bottles of Grand Marnier, of course all while pretending we were tres chic on our date night! Thank you, Grand Marnier for an evening of splendour and escape!