Epcot's
2012 International
Food & Wine Festival

The Discovery of Grand Marnier

Discovery of Grand Marnier
Sunday, September 30, 2012
2:45 - 4:15 p.m.
$65 plus tax, gratuity included
Festival Center
Epcot

Review by
Debra Martin Koma
Senior Editor, AllEars.Net


Discovery of Grand MarnierGrand Marnier Representative

Axelle Rayrolles

Menu

Grand Mimosa
Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
Grand Marnier Cuvee Centenaire
Grand Marnier Cuvee Cinq Centenaire
Grand Marnier Cherry
Grand Smash
Assorted Mini Donuts - pumpkin spice, chicory (coffee), and marzipan
Grand Marnier Gelato
Assorted Truffles - creamsicle, roasted jalapeno and infused with Grand Marnier Cherry


When the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival first introduced a Grand Marnier tasting in 2010, it was known as "Taste, Shake and Indulge Like the French" and it was held in the elegant Bistro de Paris, in World Showcase's France pavilion. With that restaurant in the midst of renovations, the program has been moved to the Festival Center, and now sports a new name: The Discovery of Grand Marnier.

Since I missed this tasting last year, I decided I'd check it out in its new home, with a new (to me) presenter, the charming Axelle Reyrolles.

Discovery of Grand Marnier
Discovery of Grand Marnier

 

I was curious how the program would translate to its new, less intimate location -- part of the specialness of the program for me previously came from the beautifully refined surroundings of Bistro de Paris. The Festival Center, while definitely lacking in the upscale ambience, still was a good stand-in for the Bistro. Tables were set attractively for six, and each place setting featured a shaker, ice strainer and muddler, an assortment of liqueur glasses filled with various kinds of Grand Marnier, as well as a small bottle of Grand Marnier, a plate of lemon wedges and mint leaves.

As we entered the area cordoned off for our event, we were offered a refreshing Grand Mimosa cocktail -- orange juice and champagne, with an extra shot of Grand Marnier. Rayrolles informed us, as we took our seats and got settled in, that's how a mimosa is SUPPOSED to be made. She then launched into her presentation on the history of the orange-infused cognac that was the center of the afternoon's attention.

Interestingly, the content and format of the program has changed little from when I first attended two years ago. Rayrolles told us how the spirit was originally called Curacao Marnier, due to its orange flavor, and how the famous hotelier Caesar Ritz came up with the name Grand Marnier (Marnier is the name of the cognac-making family that started producing the beverage).

Intermingled with our history lesson were tastes of the various types of Grand Marnier available: Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge, the original orange-flavored liqueur, with the throat-warming harshness of cognac; the darker and smoother Grand Marnier Centenaire, which originated in 1927 to commemorate the company's 100th anniversary; and Grand Marnier Cent Cinquentenaire, which comes in a beautiful painted bottle (below right) and was made to observe the company's 150th anniversary. The Cent Cinquentenaire had the most subtle orange flavor of the three, and was by far the smoothest and easiest to drink.

Discovery of Grand Marnier
Discovery of Grand Marnier

 

We were also treated to a brand new, limited-release product -- Grand Marnier Cherry, which starts with the same orange-infused cognac blend, but is brought to a rich, almost ruby-red by the addition of European griotte cherries. This sample was truly a treat -- the fruit flavor wasn't strong at first taste, but Discovery of Grand Marnierthere was a burst of cherry on the finish that was surprising. (I found it so intriguing, I bought a bottle in the Festival Center's Wine Shop -- a little steep at $53.95, but since it's not available everywhere, I thought I'd get it while I could.)

After our history lesson, Rayrolles gave us a brief course in mixology and led us in concocting a Grand Marnier Smash (recipe below). After muddling the lemon wedges and mint, we vigorously shook the mixture with Grand Marnier and ice, and then strained, poured and sipped. I recalled this drink from two years ago, and wondered why I hadn't made it since -- it's really very easy and tastes delicious.

To cap the afternoon off, we were served a variety of Grand Marnier-inspired sweets: a cup of Grand Marnier gelato, accompanied by three mini donuts (iced pumpkin spice, chicory coffee, and marzipan), and a plate of hand-made chocolates, which were described as Creamsicle (the white truffle in the photo below), roasted jalapeno (the square on the right) and Grand Marnier Cherry-infused truffle (in the center). Luckily I had remembered to save a bit of my Grand Marnier samples and was able to taste the desserts along with the liqueur to appreciate how well they complemented each other.

Discovery of Grand Marnier
Discovery of Grand Marnier

 

As a nice touch, we were given a parting goodie bag that held a small plastic shaker and a container with the Grand Marnier logo.

Unfortunately, the Discovery of Grand Marnier was only scheduled to be presented three times during this year's festival, and I believe the last offering, slated for October 21, is already sold out. It's a shame that this presentation isn't offered a few additional times, as this remains one of the most enjoyable programs of the festival.

Recipe for Grand Smash:

What you need:
1½ oz. Grand Marnier
4 chunks fresh lemon (½ lemon)
6-8 mint leaves

How to make it:
1. Muddle mint leaves and lemon wedges in a tall mixing glass.
2. Add Grand Marnier and ice and shake vigorously.
3. Strain over ice in a rocks glass and garnish with a fresh mint sprig.

VITAL INFO:

Where: Festival Center - Chef's Showcase (NOTE: New location!)
When: Sundays, September 30, October 7 and 21 from 2:45-4:15 pm
Price: $65 plus tax, gratuity included - Theme Park admission required

Call: 407-WDW-FEST for reservations.