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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Bottle Swap: Suze

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Today is the second installment of my latest bottle swap with Adam of Mr. Muddle! A few weeks ago, we each made a cocktail with Banane du Bresil, which surprised me by being ridiculously tasty and extremely versatile. Today, the bottle we're working with is Suze - definitely more of an acquired taste than a crowd pleaser, but an ingredient I'm pretty excited to be adding to my bar.

Suze is a bitter French aperitif flavored with gentian root. It was first sold in 1889 by French distiller Fernand Moureaux. Some say he created the recipe with his partner, Henri Porte, and named it after his sister-in-law, Suzanne Jaspert. Other accounts allege that he purchased the formula in 1885 from a Swiss herbalist named Hans Kappeler, and that Kappeler inspired the name by saying that his aperitif would flow in France just like the river Suze. This turned out to be pretty accurate. Suze became incredibly popular in France, and was a fixture of cafe culture. Porte's design for the tall, distinctive bottle and its vivid yellow color made it instantly recognizable. It was even immortalized (albeit extremely abstractly) in Picasso's 1912 painting Verre et bouteille de Suze ("Glass and Bottle of Suze").

Though it has remained popular abroad, Suze was not even available in the United States until 2012, when Domaine Select began importing it. Since then, craft cocktail bars and home bartenders have been reintroduced to Suze, and are including it in all sorts of different recipes.

Suze

Suze's label refers to it as "Saveur d'autrefois," meaning "the flavor of yesteryear" or "the flavor of another time." This really sums up what I love about Suze, and about most other spirits and liqueurs that have been in production for a similarly long amount of time - when you drink it, you really are tasting the same thing that someone might have sipped in Paris in 1900, or that Picasso drank while he painted the bottle in 1912. It's a very romantic notion.

Suze is an excellent ingredient for adding to cocktails, but it can definitely be tricky to work with. Its flavor is bitter and vegetal, with hints of citrus. Its taste is as distinctive as its bright yellow color. The closest thing I can compare it to is Campari, though I would consider Suze more floral and earthy, and therefore more of an acquired taste. It adds some sweetness to your drink, but not without a big wallop of a bitter finish. As such, I tend to use it in fairly small amounts when I want it to play well with other ingredients. But it can also be enjoyed on its own on the rocks, or with soda or tonic.

Suze

Alcohol content: 20%
Price: $30
Popular Cocktails: White Negroni

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Suze plays particularly well with fizz, and it's been way too long since I made a sparkling cocktail, so I knew where I wanted to go with this one. Suze and champagne is just ridiculously elegant and oh-so-French. Gin blended well with Suze's herbal notes, and I decided to amplify the floral, sunny flavors with a honey chamomile syrup and a bit of lemon juice. This cocktail tastes like wandering through French fields surrounded by wildflowers and buzzing bees. It's herbaceous and bitter, bright and fizzy. La saveur d'autrefois.

Be sure to check out what Adam has done with his half of the bottle over at Mr. Muddle! It's an equal-parts cocktail with mezcal and creme de menthe called Power of the Glow.

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1 1/2 oz. gin (GrandTen Wire Works)
1/2 oz. Suze
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. honey chamomile syrup*
3-4 oz. sparkling wine

Combine gin, Suze, lemon juice, and honey chamomile syrup in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a champagne flute and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with an edible flower.

*For honey chamomile syrup, heat 1/2 cup of brewed chamomile tea in a saucepan until it simmers. Add 1/2 cup honey and stir to dissolve. Remove from heat and let cool before using.

Suze history mostly from Frenchly.com.

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