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Picon

Posted by Josh Childs  January 6, 2013 01:52 PM

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Picon, or Amer Picon, is a French caramel colored bitter aperitif made from dried orange, gentian root, and quinquina. Slightly off-dry and with the orange component dominating, it is sipped before dinner on ice with an orange peel or often consumed with a beer. In fact, the bottle I have is also labeled Biere, there is a Picon Club version which while similar, is more focused on use in cocktails and with white wine.
Invented during the mid-1800s and originally produced in Algeria, Gaetan Picon founded the first French factory (still in operation) outside Marseille. The original recipe was at 40% ABV, and has slowly been reduced to the 18% it is today. Perhaps it may be a shadow of its former self, but it's really quite good, even simply on the rocks.

Approximately $20 in a European supermarket, it is unavailable in the US, I luckily received a bottle from a kind friend returning from Paris. Pretty fun for a bartender, I could actually make a true Brooklyn cocktail 1.5 oz rye, .75 oz dry vermouth, .5 oz Picon, .25 oz maraschino liqueur, orange peel. This drink can very closely be approximated by using the Italian Amaro, Amaro Montenegro, as a substitute, and makes a fine spicy-citus and bittersweet winter warmer. In other words, maybe think of Picon as Bridget Bardot and Amaro Montenegro as Sophia Lauren.

I additionally tried a take on a Hearst cocktail 2 oz gin, 1 oz Picon, 2 dashes of Angostura bitters (because of the orange in Picon I omitted the normal addition of orange bitters). A citrus heavy gin- like Beefeater- works well with the orange flavors, creating a nuanced, flavorful cold weather drink for martini lovers. Also delicious was an ounce of Picon with a short pour of Ipswich winter ale and an orange peel. Clove and orange flavors pleasantly mix with rich maltiness, a perfect winter beer cocktail.

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