Getting to know Suze

Any home bartender with a credit card quickly learns that you can look like a genius if you just buy the right stuff. So get yourself a bottle of Suze — rhymes with “booze” — and bask in the admiration.

Suze liqueur recipes
Picasso’s “Bottle of Suze,” 1912. You can get one for $30. The Suze, I mean, not the painting.

Though it’s been imported into the U.S. since 2012, Suze is still a kind of secret handshake among cocktaileurs, spotted mostly on the upper shelves of bars that use different sizes of ice cubes. This complex and bitter liqueur has been made in France since 1889, the year the Moulin Rouge opened. Not a bad cultural landmark to share an anniversary with.

Tasting Suze

Taken neat, the first thing you notice is the dry front-of-the-mouth feel you get with any bitter. I’m reminded a bit of Cocchi Americano.

But then come these wonderful quiet currents just underneath — a complexity of florals, some spices I can’t quite place, even something like stone. Close your eyes and linger with it: A pebbly stream in 19th century Auvergne surrounded by pink and blue flowers, the sweet scent of earth, the muted calls of unseen birds….

Whoa, dude! That’s getting pretty outre, even for an exotic French liqueur. So let’s just leave it here: The stuff is interesting and arresting and good. And only $30 a bottle!

How to drink Suze

  • Neat. Great way to just figure it out and enjoy contemplating its small mysteries. Plunk in an ice cube and it loosens up. nb: Taken neat in a clear glass, Suze is the color of a urine sample if you haven’t had anything to drink all day. Just sayin’.
  • Suze Highball: 1.5 oz Suze, ice cubes, top with soda, garnish with your citrus of choice.
  • Suze Highball Turbo™:  Top with Fever Tree tonic instead of fizzy water. You’d think the quinine of the tonic and the bitterness of the Suze might make a ruckus, and they do. But it’s wonderfully choreographed ruckus, and nobody gets hurt.
  • Negroni d’Suze©: Like I said, Suze puts me somewhat in the mind of Cocchi Americano. As it happens, Cocchi is part of my favorite recipe for a white Negroni, one I jury-rigged from a bunch of legitimate recipes and my own failed experiments. [Or, as we hack hack drinkmakers say, “I invented it.”] I replaced the Cocchi in that recipe with Suze. The florals and citrus of the gin play with the bitter and florals of the Suze…just a great drink to look at and sip while thinking vaguely European thoughts. I have since Googled and discovered that, of course, I didn’t invent this drink either.

Negroni de Suze

  • .75 oz gin
    • Any good London dry 
  • .75 oz dry vermouth
    • I used Dolin
  • .75 Suze

Stir, strain, garnish with whatever citrus you have on hand.

Three more things I learned about Suze

  • Picasso did an important abstract compositionfeaturing a Suze label in its center. That’s the picture that illustrates this blog entry. This was in 1912, before the days of product placement, I think.
  • The label on a Suze bottle says “Saveur D’Autrefois.” The idiot Google Translate says this means “Formerly d’ Flavor.” Wiser heads render it “Taste of the past.”
  • According to WebMD, Gentian, a source of the bitterness in Suze, can treat digestive problems. It can also cause digestive problems. Which makes Suze, I think, a nearly perfect beverage.




Author: Craig Stoltz

Suburban boulevardier. Former Washington Post journalist, entrepreneur, Top 25 blogger. Foodie. Cocktail geek. Proudly work in digital communications for you, The American People.

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