Look behind any cocktail bar today and you’re bound to see a bottle of Suze. But, for a long time, that wasn’t so. It wasn’t until 2012 that Suze was imported into the U.S., so what has made it so popular in just a few short years? Keep reading to find out all about one of our favorite Swiss-born, French-popularized bitter spirits.
First, what exactly is Suze?
Suze is, plainly, a bitter aperitif (which we are no strangers to here). The main ingredient is gentian root, specifically the species gentiana lutea (Great Yellow Gentian), which imparts the bitter, vegetal flavors the drink is known for. Gentian is also used in a number of other beverages — both alcoholic and non-alcoholic — such as Gentian (obvious, right?) and the soft drink, Moxie. The plant grows in Switzerland and France, which is a great segue into …
Where is Suze from and when was it created?
Suze was originally created in the 1880s (made in 1885, it wasn’t put on the market until 1889) by Fernand Moreaux in the Swiss village of Sonvilier. The name has two origin stories, both of which are acknowledged, but neither can be confirmed. The first says that Suze is a reference to Moreaux’s sister, Suzanne. The second states that it is called Suze because of the Suze River, which runs near where Moreaux is said to have gathered the ingredients needed to make the spirit. Suze got its big break in 1889 when Moreaux brought it to the Exposition Universelle (“World’s Fair”) in Paris.
Suze grew in popularity after its introduction in France, going so far as to be the focus of the Pablo Picasso piece La bouteille de Suze (Bottle of Suze), which was painted in 1912.
Currently, Suze is made in Thuir, France, near the border of Spain. The creation of Suze happens over the course of a little over a year. First, the prepared gentian is left to macerate in alcohol for at least a year. The gentian roots are pressed for the liquid, which is then used in distillation. From there, other aromatic ingredients are added to create the final product.
How do you use Suze?
Relatively low in alcohol (only 20 percent ABV), Suze is a bit of a renaissance spirit, functioning well in a number of different environments and drinks. Depending on what you’re trying to do and what your palate is like, there’s a chance you’ll be able to use Suze. The first choice would be straight or on the rocks. Other simple options are Suze and soda, Suze and tonic, or as an additive to classic drinks like martinis. This way, you get to see the flavor profile at work before you start adding it into cocktails.
Still want more? Check out this cocktail, the Suze des Montagnes.
Suze des Montagnes
- 1.75 oz Suze
- 2 oz hot water
- 2 oz bergamot tea
- .25 oz cinnamon syrup
- .25 of a vanilla pod
- 1 slice each orange and lemon zest
Method: Add liquid ingredients to mug and mix. Add zests and vanilla pod. Serve.