Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Amer Picon on the Brain

Now that Absinthe is again made all over the place and readily available in liquor stores and bars, there are few potions in cocktail geekdom that excite the blood of the fanaticist as Amer Picon.

Amer Picon, as Drinkboy described it, "is a bitter cordial made with orange, gentian, and other ingredients." It's an Amaro, which is Italian for "bitter." Amaros are a variety of Italian herbal liqueurs, and have a fairly high alcohol content. Amer Picon used to be readily available in the good ol' U.S. of A., and is a part of many classic pre-Prohibition cocktails. For some time, however, it has an unpurchaseable item Stateside. It exists still, but only over in Europe, and apparently was reformulated in the 1970s, creating a Old Coke-New Coke-like split on whether the new version can hold a candle to the old.

West coast bartender Jamie Boudreau (that's a real bartender's name, isn't it?) last year came up with a formula which he believes replicates the taste of the original Amer Picon, and many of the more prominent Cocktailians seem to agree. I got a hold of the recipe and am in the process of putting the stuff together. It really doesn't take that long, except that that Jamie insists the orange tincture that is one of the ingredients sit for two months. It's been on my shelf for one week and already I'm impatient. His website said I can cut the time by a month if I shake the jar up three times a day, so I may go that route. I'm not promising anything! (The picture is courtesy of Boudreau's site, since I ain't got no bottle to photograph.)

Events conspire to keep Amer Picon on my mind. I was bellying up to the bar at Death & Co. the other night and got to talking with its able bartender Paul. He said the bar used to have some real Amer Picon smuggled over from Europe, but made the mistake of listing it as an ingredient in a featured cocktail. Word got around and the stuff was gone in a flash.

That lesson may soon be learned over again by a recently opened Brooklyn bar. (I'm not going to say which, because I don't want to incite a run on the place.) They possess a bottle of the stuff (old or new, I can't say), prominently on view behind on the bar. Recently, they started featuring it as part of the on-offer Liberal cocktail. (Rye, sweet vermouth, Amer Picon.) I've made Liberals at home, using various substitutes for the Picon, but they never tasted like this. Best Liberal I ever had. The Amaro added amazing and pleasing layers of depth and flavor. The bartender said they won't be serving any Picon Punch, because the bottle would be emptied in a flash.

One thing I'd like to know. Amer Picon is unavailable here, but does that make it illegal to sell it in an American bar. Anyone know?

1 comment:

erik.ellestad said...

Yes, it is illegal to sell or distribute booze which has been imported for "personal use" as defined by US Customs/TSA.

If you are selling or distributing any kind of booze, you need to have an import license and the booze has to be approved for sale in the US by the TTB.