Bottle #18: The Original Canton Delicate Ginger Liqueur

Jun 7, 2023

Bottle #18 is the Original Canton Delicate Ginger Liqueur. It’s one of the prettiest bottles I’ve unboxed so far, packaged in an ornate cut glass bottle. A quick internet search on this product will turn up that it is the precursor to our modern-day Domaine de Canton liqueur. But like with so many of the bottles, there’s a lot buried in that easy one-liner!

Read the rest of the story

The Original Canton Delicate Ginger Liqueur was imported from Guangdong province of China, definitely between 1992 and 1995 and possibly to 1997. The importer was Charles Jacquin et Cie., Inc, which is the oldest liqueur producer in the United States. They were established in Pennsylvania in 1884 and survived Prohibition by producing non-alcoholic cordials during the dark years. They are best known for Chambord, but there’s got to be a bottle of that in these boxes, so I won’t write more about them now.

According to my tiny bottle, The Original Canton Delicate Ginger Liqueur was created centuries ago for the rulers of the Qing dynasty, and included “six varieties of ginger, harmonized with a touch of gentle herbs and ginseng, blended with finest spirits and rich brandy and rounded with honey.” Which sounds pretty tasty. It’s bottled at 20% ABV.

The early 90s proved to be a tough time to sell a ginger liqueur. Asian-fusion cuisine was not yet trending, and ginger was an unfamiliar ingredient to a lot of Americans. The early marketing materials I uncovered are a wild ride of trying to be all things to all people – one ad showcases the beautiful bottle and declares that “anyone who is serious about fine liqueurs should own a bottle,” while another features a scantily clad blonde woman in a black dress, with a tag line of “Ginger with Ginseng makes it happen.” A third ad is completely over the top, not to mention kind of racist, using the same sexy blonde art to pitch the Chinese Torture cocktail (3 parts Canton, 1 part gin). But none of it worked, and the brand disappeared by 1997.

By late 2007, though, things were very different. And when a ginger liqueur named Domaine de Canton hit the shelves, it was an immediate success, winning best of show at multiple international spirits competitions in 2008. This new liqueur was not a product of Charles Jacquin et Cie. It was the brainchild of John Cooper, who was the eldest son of the owner of Charles Jacquin. John had grown up in the business, and when the company sold Chambord to Brown Forman for a whopping $260 million dollars in 2006, John took what he’d learned and earned and started his own company.

The liqueur market was hot in 2008. Elderflower liqueur St-Germain had been released in 2007 and completely taken the spirits and cocktail world by storm. The moment was ripe for another new liqueur to share some of St Germain’s spotlight, and John Cooper was determined to get his share of it. And this wasn’t just business – it was personal, because St Germain was the creation of John’s baby brother, Rob Cooper. And, when asked by the Wall Street Journal in 2009 why the two hadn’t teamed up, John replied “We don’t get along.”

The Domaine de Canton marketing doesn’t make any mention of the earlier Original Canton Delicate Ginger Liqueur. In fact, it goes so far as to call Domaine de Canton “the world’s first ginger liqueur.” Instead, it came up with its own backstory, and in 2008 claimed that the product was named after Domain de Canton, “a ginger root estate located in the Indochinese province of Siam” and that “ginger-infused spirits, ginger drinks and ginger wine were first developed in French Colonial Indochina in the mid-19th century.” Given that the British have been producing ginger beer and wine since the 1700s, and people throughout Asia for probably hundreds or thousands of years before that, I think we can call this “history” what it actually is…good old-fashioned marketing.

As I dug into this, I got especially interested in one small detail on my bottle of Original Canton Delicate Ginger Liqueur. It really was imported from China, and the name of the maker is Doumen Canton Liqueur Co. Which sounds an awful lot like “Domaine.”

I’m not sure how aware John Cooper would have been with the family company’s original product; he was born in 1975, so would have been only 17 when they started selling it. And since the original product wasn’t very successful, it makes sense that they’d want to distance themselves from it anyway. But I can imagine a brainstorming session, perhaps inspired by a look at the back catalog or suppliers.

“What about bringing back that old ginger liqueur from Doumen? Canton, I think they called it.”

“Doumen… Canton… Oh hey, Domaine de Canton sounds very sexy and French! That St-Germain liqueur Rob’s been working on is sexy and French! Let’s make a ginger liqueur in France and come up with a French backstory!”

However, it came about, we’re all ultimately the winners in this battle of sibling rivalry, because both St-German and Domaine de Canton are delicious! And packaged in gorgeous bottles that my Grandma would have loved, had she not stopped collecting minis in 2006.

(Appendix: Sadly, there is no longer a sibling rivalry due to Rob Cooper’s untimely death in 2016. RIP, Rob. In 2020 John Cooper became the newest owner and CEO of Charles Jacquin et Cie.)

Watch me taste this bottle with Kara Newman.

Listen Now

Watch Now

Bottle #18: The Original Canton Delicate Ginger Liqueur

Jun 7, 2023 |

Bottle #18 is the Original Canton Delicate Ginger Liqueur. It’s one of the prettiest bottles I’ve unboxed so far, packaged in an ornate cut glass bottle. A quick internet search on this product will turn up that it is the precursor to our modern-day Domaine de Canton liqueur. But like with so many of the bottles, there’s a lot buried in that easy one-liner!

The Original Canton Delicate Ginger Liqueur was imported from Guangdong province of China, definitely between 1992 and 1995 and possibly to 1997. The importer was Charles Jacquin et Cie., Inc, which is the oldest liqueur producer in the United States. They were established in Pennsylvania in 1884 and survived Prohibition by producing non-alcoholic cordials during the dark years. They are best known for Chambord, but there’s got to be a bottle of that in these boxes, so I won’t write more about them now.

According to my tiny bottle, The Original Canton Delicate Ginger Liqueur was created centuries ago for the rulers of the Qing dynasty, and included “six varieties of ginger, harmonized with a touch of gentle herbs and ginseng, blended with finest spirits and rich brandy and rounded with honey.” Which sounds pretty tasty. It’s bottled at 20% ABV.

The early 90s proved to be a tough time to sell a ginger liqueur. Asian-fusion cuisine was not yet trending, and ginger was an unfamiliar ingredient to a lot of Americans. The early marketing materials I uncovered are a wild ride of trying to be all things to all people – one ad showcases the beautiful bottle and declares that “anyone who is serious about fine liqueurs should own a bottle,” while another features a scantily clad blonde woman in a black dress, with a tag line of “Ginger with Ginseng makes it happen.” A third ad is completely over the top, not to mention kind of racist, using the same sexy blonde art to pitch the Chinese Torture cocktail (3 parts Canton, 1 part gin). But none of it worked, and the brand disappeared by 1997.

By late 2007, though, things were very different. And when a ginger liqueur named Domaine de Canton hit the shelves, it was an immediate success, winning best of show at multiple international spirits competitions in 2008. This new liqueur was not a product of Charles Jacquin et Cie. It was the brainchild of John Cooper, who was the eldest son of the owner of Charles Jacquin. John had grown up in the business, and when the company sold Chambord to Brown Forman for a whopping $260 million dollars in 2006, John took what he’d learned and earned and started his own company.

The liqueur market was hot in 2008. Elderflower liqueur St-Germain had been released in 2007 and completely taken the spirits and cocktail world by storm. The moment was ripe for another new liqueur to share some of St Germain’s spotlight, and John Cooper was determined to get his share of it. And this wasn’t just business – it was personal, because St Germain was the creation of John’s baby brother, Rob Cooper. And, when asked by the Wall Street Journal in 2009 why the two hadn’t teamed up, John replied “We don’t get along.”

The Domaine de Canton marketing doesn’t make any mention of the earlier Original Canton Delicate Ginger Liqueur. In fact, it goes so far as to call Domaine de Canton “the world’s first ginger liqueur.” Instead, it came up with its own backstory, and in 2008 claimed that the product was named after Domain de Canton, “a ginger root estate located in the Indochinese province of Siam” and that “ginger-infused spirits, ginger drinks and ginger wine were first developed in French Colonial Indochina in the mid-19th century.” Given that the British have been producing ginger beer and wine since the 1700s, and people throughout Asia for probably hundreds or thousands of years before that, I think we can call this “history” what it actually is…good old-fashioned marketing.

As I dug into this, I got especially interested in one small detail on my bottle of Original Canton Delicate Ginger Liqueur. It really was imported from China, and the name of the maker is Doumen Canton Liqueur Co. Which sounds an awful lot like “Domaine.”

I’m not sure how aware John Cooper would have been with the family company’s original product; he was born in 1975, so would have been only 17 when they started selling it. And since the original product wasn’t very successful, it makes sense that they’d want to distance themselves from it anyway. But I can imagine a brainstorming session, perhaps inspired by a look at the back catalog or suppliers.

“What about bringing back that old ginger liqueur from Doumen? Canton, I think they called it.”

“Doumen… Canton… Oh hey, Domaine de Canton sounds very sexy and French! That St-Germain liqueur Rob’s been working on is sexy and French! Let’s make a ginger liqueur in France and come up with a French backstory!”

However, it came about, we’re all ultimately the winners in this battle of sibling rivalry, because both St-German and Domaine de Canton are delicious! And packaged in gorgeous bottles that my Grandma would have loved, had she not stopped collecting minis in 2006.

(Appendix: Sadly, there is no longer a sibling rivalry due to Rob Cooper’s untimely death in 2016. RIP, Rob. In 2020 John Cooper became the newest owner and CEO of Charles Jacquin et Cie.)

Watch me taste this bottle with Kara Newman.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *