Forbidden Fruit Liqueur

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    I purchased this unopened bottle of Forbidden Fruit liqueur from an old liquor store a few months ago. The owner told me that the store has been in operation since the end of Prohibition, so many of the old bottles on display date from the mid-part of the 20th century or earlier. I noticed this one hidden away on the top shelf collecting dust with its original tax seal intact (meaning never opened), so I made the owner an offer of (I think) $50, which he graciously accepted, and now this fascinating relic of midcentury cocktail culture is mine.

    Of course I have no idea how old this particular bottle is but I believe they stopped selling the stuff in the 1950s. (Edit: Jacquin et Cie. discontinued the product in the 1970s, a few years before introducing Chambord in the same orb-shaped bottle. In the latter years of FF production the product was altered to the point of being almost unrecognizable; I have read that it was entirely reformulated and became an apple liqueur shortly before its demise, so later bottlings of FF would not be at all similar to this circa 1940 bottle, its earlier incarnation.) It's definitely post-1936 because the booklet touts Forbidden Fruit's gold medal from that year (plus it has the typical embossed "federal law forbids sale or re-use of this bottle" statement that was required after Prohibition, from 1933 until 1964). So 1940s-1950s seems most likely to me. I wish there was some way to date the bottle precisely, because it certainly looks very old (right down to the vintage recipe booklet still strapped to the ornately banded neck). No idea when (or if) I'll open this, but if I do it will be a special occasion, indeed.

    A detailed history of Forbidden Fruit is nonexistent on the intertubes so any additional information will be gratefully received.

    UPDATE: Thanks to the help of Charles Jacquin Et Cie., Inc. (via Facebook) I've been able to date this bottle to approximately 1940, based on the codes embossed on the bottom of the bottle.

    Here's an interesting page from the Bustanoby Family History Project about Forbidden Fruit Liqueur, which was originally developed by Louis Bustanoby in the 1890s, including a PDF of the 1904 patent for the bottle design. It doesn't help much in dating my particular bottle but is nonetheless a fascinating historical document.

    Also of interest is this undated article, "Drinks Chosen For Color, Not Taste, At Women's Bar," about the "women's bar" at the Cafe des Beaux Arts at 40th St and 6th Avenue in New York City, of which Louis Bustanoby was the proprietor. The quaintly condescending tone of the article about the novelty of women drinking in public is amusing, with so much daintiness and powdering of noses and lines like "the weird things our wives and sweethearts order to match their clothes," but it's also a fascinating document of early 20th-century gender stereotypes played out in the bar room context.

    This quote from Francois, the head bartender, is charming in its own way:

    "'Women,' said Francois, 'are the only people who understand the artistry of mixed drinks. Men pretend to, and use a great deal of language explaining how a mint julep should be made or how much gin should be used in this or that kind of cocktail, but they are all bluffers. There isn't one man in a thousand who can tell anything about whether a mixed drink was mixed right or not. Bluff, I tell you--pure bluff. But the women are different. The artistic sense that is inherent in all of them extends to drinks as well as to everything else, and when you mix a drink for a woman, whether it's a New Orleans fizz or a Sazerac cocktail, or just an ordinary silver fizz, you know that you are going to get some of the appreciation that should go to every true artist, and without which he feels that a mere money reward is insufficient.'"

    Sounds like "a stately sort of bartender," indeed.

    And here's a bonus article clipping about the time the Bustanobys roasted and ate a whole baby lion at their restaurant. The lion, which had been given to Andre Bustanoby's nephew as a Christmas gift by "misguided friends," was "growing at an alarming rate and developing a penchant for rugs, draperies, and cushions." So of course the only logical option was to roast it and eat it.

    1. sbotjen 35 months ago | reply

      reminds of a Chambord bottle I saved from my bartending days - seems to be some info about the distiller/distributor out there, maybe they have some historical info to share? neat find!

    2. aphonik 35 months ago | reply

      Thanks for sharing! That is one of the few more substantive articles I was able to find about Forbidden Fruit when I started searching. I knew that the bottle design was borrowed for the Chambord product that I believe was released in America later on by the same company. So the bottle design survived, but the liqueur itself has been lost. Curious to know whether age has affected its flavor (I'm sure it has, but to what extent I'm not sure). It's 80 proof so at least the alcohol percentage means it's probably still palatable. Perhaps I'll find out some day.

    3. dowcet 34 months ago | reply

      The articles about the lion are great! I hope you keep digging and find out more... I bet a research librarian could point you to some useful sources.

    4. WD3rd 18 months ago | reply

      Thanks for the information. I came across an unopened bottle with the tax stamp intact while cleaning out my mom's house.

    5. aphonik 18 months ago | reply

      Excellent. Did you find any other interesting bottles in your mom's house? If you've opened the Forbidden Fruit I'd be curious to hear your take on the flavor. And if you haven't opened it yet, I'd be happy to take it off your hands. Cheers! --Eric

    6. chabovic 2 months ago | reply

      I also have an unopened bottle of forbidden fruit in a box with a mail in tag to receive a picture of a painting from the garden of eden. Any idea on the year of production or value?

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