While we are perfectly happy grabbing a trusty beer or handy glass of scotch, we also like trying obscure liqueurs (and liquors) that few people ever actually go for – or have even heard of. This week we stumbled across an old bottle of Suze and were instantly intrigued.
Suze is a yellow and bitter liqueur from France, where a man by the name of Fernand Moreaux introduced it in 1889. It was first created and distilled in the area of Sonvilier, in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.
It’s distilled from the gentian plant, also called the Great Yellow Gentian. Specifically, it’s made from the root of the gentian, which gives it a very distinct bitter and grassy flavor and aroma. The Gentian is used in distilling several different liqueurs, such as the appropriately-named Gentian, Aperol Campari and Underberg. It’s even used in the soft drink Moxie.
Where does the name come from? There’re a few different explanations, actually. One explanation is that it’s named after the Suze River in Switzerland, which flows nearby Sonvilier. The more common tale is that he named it after his sister Suzanne, a rationale which we prefer.
Today, Suze is made in Thuir, France, where it takes over a year to create a single bottle. It’s been been a popular aperitif in France and throughout Europe for some time, and Pablo Picasso even depicted it in his Glass and a Bottle of Suze in 1912. But it wasn’t available here in the US for another century after Picasso’s depiction, and consequently, most Americans haven’t even heard of it.
Best Suze Drinks and Cocktails
Suze is bitter and low in alcohol content, at only 20% ABV. So, you could drink it neat or on the rocks, but it’s usually used in aperitifs or cocktails, where the bitterness can be balanced out by other ingredients. Here’s a couple we like:
An easy twist on a classic drink.
- 1.5 oz ounce London Dry Gin (any brand, but Bombay Sapphire is best)
- 1 oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth
- .5 ounce Suze
- Lemon twist for garnish
Suze de Montagnes
This the classic French cocktail containing Suze. If you want authentic experience, choose this one.
- 1.75 oz Suze
- 2 oz hot water
- 2 oz bergamot tea
- .25 oz cinnamon syrup
- 1/4 of a vanilla pod
- 1 slice orange
- Lemon zest
The Suze’s bitterness is an easy alternative to Angostura bitters in this fresh take on the classic Old-Fashioned, while upping the ABV a bit, too.
- 2 oz rye whiskey
- 3/4 oz ounce Suze
- 1/4 ounce of simple syrup