Written by Chris Benjamin, director of food and beverage at the Essex Resort and Spa.

They say that spring in Paris is magical — one of the greatest places to be during the changing of the seasons. Paris hooked my mom and sister, who recently traveled there, but for me, I’ll take spring in Vermont any day.

After the cold, bleak days of winter, 55 degrees feels like t-shirt weather, and if it hits the 60s, I’m in shorts. I know some Floridians look at us Vermonters a little funny when we do that, but who doesn’t love the turning of this season?

Spring is also a pivotal time for us in our eating and drinking habits. While I love pastas, braised and roasted meats, and heavy sauces, when spring hits, I’m ready to change gears. Grilled fare, salads and seafood are the dominating items on my plate. And as my foods change, so do the aperitifs that go with them. While martinis are classics anytime of the year, adding fruit flavors to them is a light way to enjoy a variety of tastes. Tonics will start to come into play as it gets warmer, whether they are served with vodka or gin, and mojitos continue to enjoy the limelight with all of the fresh mint that’s starting to emerge.

Among my favorite drinks this time of year is the French martini. A classic in just about any bar you go, the basic components are vodka (specifically Grey Goose, because it’s French), Chambord, and pineapple juice.

According to its website, Chambord was created in the late 17th century in France’s Loire Valley. King Louis XIV visited the Chateau du Chambord and loved it. The creation of Chambord is fairly complex, starting with the sorting of blackberries and raspberries and steeping them in French spirits, specifically brandy, for about a month. Distillers then remove that initial infusion and add another layer of brandy, collecting more sugars and another layer of berry flavor. The two infusions are then sent to the Maitre Liquoriste (Liquor Master) who performs a complex blending of the infused brandies with vanilla from Madagascar, Moroccan citrus peel, and delicate herbs and spices. These form the black raspberry liqueur we enjoy today, and make our Kir Royals and French Martinis what they are.

So here’s to spring! Enjoy some grilling on the patio (ours at The Essex is open, by the way). Let’s hope it’s a great season with lots of sun. Enjoy!

French Martini
1 ½ oz. Grey Goose Vodka (Don’t skimp! Grey Goose is way to go with this drink.)
½ oz. Chambord
1 oz. pineapple juice

Combine ingredients over ice, shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with pineapple spear, and enjoy.

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