In 1872, the sibling’s Paul and Raymond Lillet, distillers and sellers of wines and spirits, established La Maison Lillet in Podensac, south of Bordeaux, France. The idea of producing aperitifs in Bordeaux came from Father Kermann, a doctor. He left Brazil at the start of Louis XVI’s reign. Back in France, he stayed in Bordeaux, where he produced liqueurs and fortifiers from plants such as quinine. Throughout that time, Bordeaux became one of the most important places for the European wine business.
After the 19th century, people created a great fear of illness due to the breakthroughs made by Louis Pasteur (1822–1895). Nevertheless, “Wine,” Pasteur said, “can be deemed with a great reason as the most healthy and the cleanest of all drinks.” As a result, tonic wines (with quinine) became very popular as quinine was used to fight fevers and relieve malaria symptoms. In 1887, Pierre and Raymond Lillet invented Kina Lillet.
During the 1920s, Lillet exports significantly increased in Europe and Africa. The brand also became renowned in France, thanks to marketing campaigns. At the same time, Lillet was provided on transatlantic liners, part of the explanation for its success with high society in New York. American mixologists used it for making fashionable brews.
In 1962, Pierre Lillet, grandson of Raymond, enthusiastic to benefit from America’s increasing taste for red wine, invented Lillet Rouge for the American marketplace.
In the initial part of the 1970s, Maison Lillet gets rid of “Kina” from the brand name, calling it merely Lillet. “Kina” had become a common term used by many aperitifs to emphasize their quinine content and was no longer critical for the occasions. Lillet is the name of the family unit and came to be the only name of the label.