Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Byrrh to Return to U.S. Shelves

Byrrh is a French aperitif, a 125-year-old red-wine-based quinquina that thrived in the early 20th century. It was created by two brothers with the poetical names of Pallade and Simon Violet, and initially marketed as a health drink and sold in pharmacies. It's popularity declined after World War II, despite an heavy ad campaign. (It's hard-to-pronounce name couldn't have helped.) In 1961 the business was sold to CDC who made Dubonnet and Cinzano, which was later merged with Cusenier. In 1977 the brand was bought by Pernod.

Byrrh hasn't been seen on the American market for many years. But, as with many another European aperitif and digestif in recent years, it is now on its way back, it's return instigated by the demands of mixologists, the passion of liquor aficianados and the diligence of quixotic importers like Haus Alpenz. That house, run by Eric Seed, is in fact the one brining Byrrh in.

Byrrh is gentle by quinquina standards: fairly sweet, only mildly bitter—it reminds me of Bonal (another Haus Alpenz import) a bit—and has a fuller body than some aperitifs. The red wine used as the base hails from the Languedoc Roussillon—in the past the source of tons of very middling plonk, but lately the home of vintners of fine, affordable and experimental reds. It's generally drunk cold, straight or on the rocks.


laughterNforgetting said...

Oh yea! Better than St. Rafael; much better than Lillet Red; much, much better than Dubonnet Red!

frederic said...

I actually got to taste Byrrh at the informal tasting the day before Tales of the Cocktail 2010. Since Eric Seed was there, it probably was his doing that day. I would put describe it as perhaps 2-3 parts Dubonnet to 1 part Bonal. I think my mind built it up into something different from all the years of reading about something I couldn't find.