The modern backbar is no stranger to gentian. The alpine flowering plant—specifically, its tuberous root—finds its way into everything from vermouth to amaro to aperitivo liqueurs, where it adds its signature bitterness to each ingredient. But no product showcases gentian more prominently than, well, gentian liqueurs.
Originally created in the French Alps, gentian liqueurs first appeared in writing in the late 18th century, but the brands that remain staples of the category today—Avèze, Salers Aperitif and Suze—were introduced in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Though they began as medicinal tonics, gentian liqueurs were popularized as an aperitif served on the rocks, often with a squeeze of lemon juice. Today, however, they are more commonly used to add herbal complexity to an array of cocktails, from modern classics like the White Negroni to new riffs on familiar templates, such as the Bijou Blanc, a fairer take on the Bijou.
Given recent limitations of the supply chain, these bottles—particularly Suze—have become increasingly difficult to source. But if you’re lucky enough to find one, here’s how to make the most of it.
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