Gentian cocktails – the world's 100 best
Words by Simon Difford
Photography by Dan Malpass
Continuing my quest, I'm sampling 100s of gentian liqueur cocktails to boost the number of tasty drinks using Suze on Difford’s Guide and for a cocktail book featuring the 100 best Suze cocktails to be published later this year. (Should have been 2018 but there's just so many to make and try!)
10 new Suze cocktails
These are the ten latest recipes I’ve made, tried and liked enough to add to this site (in January 2019). Please click the name for full recipe and info on who created and why.
With: Gin, Suze, lime juice, sugar syrup, absinthe and soda.
We say: Pale green in colour with a refreshing bitter/sour sweet profile.
The Bee Bodice
With: Lavender infused vodka, Suze, lemon juice, honey water, egg white and grapefruit bitters.
We say: Honeyed and floral with a cleansing bitterness.
La Bouche Reelle No.2 (The Real Mouth)
With: Ginger jam, aged rum, bourbon, Suze, pink grapefruit juice, orange bitters and egg white.
We say: Zingy, bittersweet ginger with a hefty dose of spirit smoothed by egg white.
With: White grape juice, Suze, amaro, peach liqueur and mint leaves.
We say: A bittersweet refreshing drink for a summer’s afternoon or an aperitif with grape and peach fruitiness and complexity courtesy of gentian and fresh mint.
La Petite Bouche
With: Suze, white rum, orange bitters and Mediterranean tonic water.
We say: Dry and refreshing with gentian bitterness and complexity forming the backbone of this aperitif.
With: Benedictine D.O.M., Aperol, Suze, Lillet Blanc, lime juice, egg white and Angostura Bitters.
We say: An aromatic bittersweet sour with heavy herbal influences.
Dans Le Jardin (In The Garden)
With: Suze, gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and egg white.
We say: This bittersweet aperitif-style drink’s light green hue and garnish befits its name and uses the tried and tested combo of gentian, gin and lemon juice.
With: Bourbon, cognac, Suze, dry vermouth, amaretto, sugar syrup, Peychaud's bitters and Angostura aromatic bitters.
We say: Spirit-forward and bittersweet yet balanced and eminently drinkable. Reminiscent of an old-fashioned but with the option to enjoy as an aperitif.
With: Amaro, Suze, Americano and Italicus.
We say: The distinctive flavours of amaro and gentian dominate this bittersweet but mellow aperitif.
The Golden Trinity
As part of this quest, I’ve discovered there's a combination of equal parts (or near equal parts) ingredients, I call the Golden Trinity, that reliably yields great Suze cocktail. Great minds think alike, or perhaps some ingredients are just meant to go together. And perhaps Wayne Collin's 2001 White Negroni has consciously or sub-consciously influenced latter-day bartenders.
Garnish: Pink grapefruit zest
Method: STIR all ingredients in ice-filled glass
1oz / 30ml Dry gin
1oz / 30ml Suze
1oz / 30ml Lillet Blanc
The White Negroni may have started as a riff on a regular Negroni but it established the much since replicated Golden Trinity formula = spirit + Suze + aromatised wine (dry &/or bianco vermouth)
Golden Trinity & subtle variations on Golden Trinity Suze cocktails
There are numerous other Suze cocktails that still call for the same (or similar) Golden Trinity ingredients, but with proportions that slightly vary from equal parts to be more or less spirit forward, or introduce combinations of ingredients to comprise elements of the Golden Trinity.
Charente White Negroni
With: Gin, cognac, Suze and Lillet Blanc.
We say: A White Negroni with the cognac replacing half of the gin. Fittingly 'Charente' references the Cognac area of France.
With: Scotch, Suze, Italicus and honey water.
We say: Honey balances bitter notes of gentian with citrusy bergamot and Scotch spirit. An aperitif of digestive.
The Dandy #2
With: Speyside single malt scotch, Suze, dry vermouth and saline solution.
We say: Dry and slightly on the bitter side of bittersweet, single malt scotch, gentian liqueur and dry vermouth sit well together in this appealing aperitif-style cocktail.
Jersey's Best Dancers
With: Suze, mezcal and dry vermouth.
We say: Three equal part ingredients, the holy grail of cocktail recipes, makes for a dry spirituous aperitif cocktail. This cocktail is very similar to a Maximiliano Cocktail.
With: Gognac, Lillet Blanc, Suze, sugar syrup, Peychaud's Bitters and Angostura Bitters.
We say: Also try this aperitif-style bittersweet cocktail served on-the-rocks.
With: Mezcal, Suze, dry vermouth, sugar syrup and salt.
We say: The subtly smoky notes of mezcal combine brilliantly with the aromatic bitter sweetness of gentian liqueur in this fabulously complex aperitif cocktail.
With: Gin, Canadian rye whisky, Suze and Aperol.
We say: Stirred, spirituous and bittersweet, this aperitif-style cocktail reflects Montreal's French and English influences with London dry gin and gentiane liqueur. Naturally this Canadian cocktail also features domestically produced rye whisky.
The Road Not Taken
With: Spiced gin, Suze, Rinquinquin and Chamomile bitters.
We say: Lightly spiced and bittersweet, a good option for an aperitivo.
With: Scotch whisky, Suze and Lillet Blanc.
We say: Dry, lightly bitter and delicately spirituous. An aperitif-style sipper.
Suze you, Sir
With: Blanco tequila, dry vermouth, Suze, agave syrup and grapefruit bitters.
We say: We do like a pun and appropriately the original recipe for this cocktail specifies Suze gentian liqueur. The flavour of gentian combines brilliantly with tequila while dry vermouth adds herbal complexity.
With: Blanco tequila, Suze, dry vermouth and bianco vermouth.
We say: A dry and fairly bitter aperitif-style cocktail combining tequila's herbaceous notes and the herbal flavours of gentian.
With: Gin, Byrrh and gentian liqueur.
We say: Bittersweet with a strong hint of gentian. A great aperitif.
Youth & Treachery
With: Blanco tequila, Suze and bianco vermouth.
We say: This spirituous bitter-sweet aperitif is reminiscent of a White Negroni, but based on tequila rather than gin.
With: Pisco, limoncello, Yellow Chartreuse and bianco vermouth.
We say: As the name suggests, this pisco based, five equal part, vivid yellow bittersweet aperitif was inspired by the classic Negroni and three of the world's most iconic yellow liqueurs: limoncello, gentian and Chartreuse Jaune.
Other Suze cocktails I highly recommend
My thanks to all of you who have submitted your Suze cocktail recipes. I've more than 100 still to make but I've been uploading those which I like suit Difford's Guide as I go. The very best of these are on this page.
With: Anejo tequila, oloroso sherry, Suze, mezcal, agave syrup and chocolate bitters.
We say: Dry and lightly bitter, this tequila-based sipper makes for a great aperitif cocktail.
The Artist's Muse
With: Pisco, Suze, crème de pîche, lemon juice, sugar syrup and egg white.
We say: Bittersweet and fruity, with complex aromatics from the pisco and strong flavours of gentian liqueur.
With: Blanco tequila, gentian liqueur, manzanilla sherry and pink grapefruit liqueur.
We say: This tequila based cocktail is bitter before turning bittersweet, then finishes with a long bitter finish. It won't be for everybody but for those who appreciate the flavour of gentiane liqueur will appreciate this drink for its simplicity and originality.
With: Vodka, Suze, bianco vermouth, sugar syrup, pink grapefruit juice, Peychaud's bitters and egg white.
We say: Bittersweet gentian is the prevalent flavour (hence the 'Suzie' name), toned down by bianco vermouth and freshened with pink grapefruit over a fortifying grainy vodka base. Peychaud's subtly adds its distinctive flavour.
With: Cognac, Yellow Chartreuse, Suze and sugar syrup.
We say: Almost creamy with vanilla, bittersweet rootiness and cognac.
With: Suze, amaro, rye whisky and lemon juice.
We say: On the sour/dry side, this aperitif-style cocktail combines bittersweet amaro and gentian with Canadian rye whisky and citrus sourness.
With: Suze, Byrrh, crème de Pîche, lemon juice, orange juice and Peychaud's Bitters.
We say: A fruity bittersweet aperitif with "orchard fruit, citrus and bittersweet gentian sipped through a sarsaparilla-like layer of Peychaud's Bitters."
Day La Vie
With: Bourbon, amaro, Suze and lemon juice.
We say: Juan Meyer's original recipe calls for equal parts: Redemption rye whiskey, Suze, Amaro de Montenogro and lemon juice. It's tasty but perhaps a tad on the boozy and dry/bitter side for many palates. Hence, we've switched the American whiskey and reduced the proportions of the bitter and sour ingredients to make this a still bittersweet, but more approachable aperitif cocktail.
Dried Meadow Flower
With: Reposado tequila, elderflower liqueur, Suze, lemon juice and soda water.
We say: Floral elderflower and tequila with a hint of bittersweet gentian and refreshing lemon.
With: Bourbon, sweet vermouth, Aperol, Suze and grapefruit bitters.
We say: A bittersweet Manhattan-style lightly sparkling cocktail.
Fernand x Nando
With: Suze infused Brazilian coffee beans, cachaça, calvados and Angostura Bitters.
We say: A bittersweet aperitif combining gentian herbal complexity with attractive coffee, cachaça and calvados spirituous notes.
With: Soda water, Suze, elderflower liqueur and champagne.
We say: This aperitif-style cocktail perfectly fits its name. That said, fans of Italian fizz will be interested to learn how well this spritz works when made with prosecco in place champagne.
With: Suze, Byrrh and tonic water.
We say: A refreshing aperitif with a mouth salivating bitterness. Makes a Spritz seem bland.
Glass & Bottle
With: Gin, Suze, Cocchi Americano, sugar syrup, lemon juice and sea salt.
We say: Sour, dry and fabulously complex with bittersweet herbal gentian notes over a gin base.
With: Bourbon, Suze, apricot brandy and lemon juice.
We say: Zesty, bittersweet and sweet 'n' sour, this Haystack will make you salivate - a tasty bittersweet & sour aperitif. John didn't specify a garnish and although a dried apricot doesn't particularly suit the name, it goes well with drink (which incidentally we prefer served on-the-rocks).
With: Suze, dry vermouth, bianco vermouth and orange bitters.
We say: Gentian and absinthe with zesty citrus flavour this bitter-sweet aperitif cocktail.
Ritorno Alle Radici (Back To The Roots)
With: Scotch whisky, Pedro Jimenez sherry, Suze, chocolate bitters and 3cm vanilla pod.
We say: Rich liquid Christmas pudding flavours of Pedro Jimenez laced with scotch whisky and balanced with subtle gentian and chocolate bitterness.
Sunny Disposition Highball
With: Tequila, apricot brandy, Suze, lemon juice and bitter lemon.
We say: A bittersweet lemony aperitif cocktail which is also great on a sunny afternoon - indeed anytime you find yourself with a Sunny Disposition.
With: London dry gin, triple sec, Suze, lemon juice, sugar syrup and egg white (optional).
We say: A bittersweet, gentian influenced riff on a classic White Lady.
With: Absinthe, rye whiskey, Suze, sugar syrup and Peychaud bitter.
We say: A boozy and bittersweet aperitif style cocktail.
Suzette au Bal (Suzette at the Ball)
With: Suze, Williams Pear liqueur, mezcal, lemon juice, sugar syrup and egg white.
We say: Dry and lightly bitter with a faint mezcal smokiness and delicate rich pear fruit.
With: Vodka, Suze, Bénédictine and grapefruit bitters.
We say: A vodka charged bittersweet aperitif with herbal notes laced with grainy vodka.
Swiss Cup 5
With: Rye whiskey, Suze, sweet vermouth, grapefruit juice, tonic water and ginger ale.
We say: Perhaps this would more aptly be named the Alpine Cup. No matter, it a true Summer Cup in style, well-balanced and a refreshing any season of the year.
With: Kirschwasser, Suze, Yellow Chartreuse and lemon juice.
We say: As Peter Konkoly, this cocktail's creator says, it is reminiscent of a Last Word. However, we prefer this tasty drink served on-the-rocks as an aperitif alternative to a Negroni, rather than straight-up as originally specified by Peter.
Time for Suze
With: Genever, Suze, fennel tea, absinthe and sugar syrup.
We say: A wonderfully delicate and dry aperitif. Genever provides a bready spirituous base over which flavours of gentian, fennel and absinthe are layered.
Word by Word
With: Mint leaves, tequila, Yellow Chartreuse, Suze and lemon juice.
We say: A bittersweet aperitif-style riff on the classic Last Word cocktail.
La Garde de Nuit (The Night's Watch)
With: Cognac, Dubonnet Red, mead and Suze.
We say: Cognac with red berry and red wine notes with faint honeycomb.
With: Gin, Suze, lemon juice, sugar syrup and egg white.
We say: This bitter-sweet aperitif cocktail harnesses the herbal bitterness of gentian root with gin's botanical notes and sweetened freshly squeezed lemon juice.
With: Sloe gin, fino sherry and Suze.
We say: A riff on the classic Negroni from Vietnam which brilliantly set the richness of sloe gin against bone dry fino sherry while harnessing the herbal bitterness of gentian. Hit the right dilution, and by the third sip, when your palate has adjusted, you'll not be able to stop sipping this bitter aperitif cocktail.
Reggatta de Blanc
With: Pisco, calvados, Sauvignon Blanc, Suze and sugar syrup.
We say: Dry and boozy.
With: Genever, Suze, Galliano, Génépi,
We say: A great aperitif drink which uses bready genever and gentian liqueur as its backbone with spoons of herbal Galliano, genepi and chocolate liqueurs adding interest and complexity.
With: Sweet vermouth, Italian red aperitivo, Suze, Cardamom bitters and tonic water.
We say: Aperitif-style, tall and refreshing.
With: Pisco, Suze, pineapple juice, Sauvignon Blanc wine and sugar syrup.
We say: Pisco, pineapple and Sauvignon Blanc wine are a match made in heaven, while Suze provides complex underlying gentian bittersweet notes.
Yellow Cactus Flower
With: Suze, mezcal, Yellow Chartreuse, lime juice and pineapple juice.
We say: "Bright, herbaceous, subtly smoky, and refreshingly bittersweet" perfectly sums up this challenging aperitif cocktail.
Zuzu's Petals cocktail
With: Bison vodka, Suze, elderflower liqueur, lime juice, maraschino liqueur, sugar syrup and celery bitters.
We say: Bittersweet with fragrant bison grass vodka and fruity maraschino cherry flavours supported by bitter gentian, rich elderflower and lime juice.