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Picon Punch

bright-red picon punch cocktail in an Irish Coffee glass over ice, garnished with a lemon peel and served on a round silver tray
Image:

Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

The Picon Punch is a 19th-century cocktail featuring a unique liqueur called Amer Picon, plus grenadine, brandy and sparkling water. The liqueur dates back to 1837, when it was created by Gaëtan Picon as a medicinal tonic. While enlisted in the French army and stationed in Algeria, he collected local herbs including quinine, cinchona and gentian to make the original 78-proof Amer Picon liqueur.

Picon went on to open a distillery in Marseille, France, and his namesake spirit eventually found its way to Bakersfield, California, where it was mixed regularly into drinks like the Picon Punch for the local Basque population. Today, the Picon Punch is a common serve among the vibrant Basque community in Reno.

Despite its lengthy history and current niche popularity, the Picon Punch is rarely served in the U.S. today as it was originally intended. That’s because Amer Picon is no longer commercially available in the country, so the cocktail is typically made with other liqueurs that mirror the original.

To make their Picon Punch, the innovative bar team at San Francisco’s 15 Romolo substitute a blend of Italian amari and liqueurs to fill in for the Amer Picon’s intense herbal character, using two parts Ramazzotti, two parts dry curaçao and one part gentian liqueur. The combination approximates Amer Picon’s unique flavor profile of bittersweet orange, gentian and dry quinine. Their version also calls for homemade grenadine for a better, richer flavor than the bright-red bottles you find on store shelves.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 ounces Amer Picon*

  • 1/4 ounce grenadine

  • Club soda, chilled, to top

  • 1/2 ounce brandy

  • Garnish: lemon peel

Steps

  1. Pour the Amer Picon substitute and grenadine into an Irish Coffee glass over ice and stir briefly.

  2. Add the club soda almost to the top, leaving a little room in the glass.

  3. Float the brandy on top.

  4. Garnish with a lemon peel.

*Amer Picon: Because it’s not available in the U.S., as a substitute, combine 2 parts Ramazzotti amaro, 2 parts dry curaçao and 1 part gentian liqueur in an airtight bottle and shake. Refrigerate until ready to use.