The Picon, also known as the Basque Cocktail of the West is a familiar term around many Basque homes. It is vague as to where it originally was made but some say it was in Bakersfield at the famed Noriega. The drink is made of Amer Picon, which is a French aperitif that is made with herbs and burnt orange peel. Amer Picon was invented by a gentleman by the name of Gaëtan Picon in 1837, and the drink evolved from begin a French aperitif by the hands of the Italians, where it fell into the hands of the Basque. The Basque Americanized the drink into the Picon Cocktail also known as Picon Punch. It is near impossible to find the original Amer Picon in the states and now the recipe has transitioned to use Torani Amer. Here is the version of the recipe for a Basque Picon Cocktail that my brother in-law likes sharing at his home.
I remember when we were kids and we got to tag along on an “adult” dinner down to the Winnemucca Hotel, the adults would always drink Picons. I loved the pretty color of the drink and I loved how happy it made everyone; I could not wait to try one myself. Years later, I found myself, back at the same watering hole when my sister was getting married. This time we were old enough to play along in their drinking games. Eager to try the forbidden drink, I bellied up to the bar and ordered a round. As the cold ruby red drink rolled between my lips, onto my taste-buds, I was left gasping and speechless; this potent drink was nothing as I had fantasized about for so many years. Instead, I was shocked and scared; too many of these and the wedding party would be dancing on the bar-top in no time.
Times have changed and taste-buds have grown. Over the holidays my brother in-law reintroduced me to the famed picon, but his version. Still the vibrant ruby red with a potent aroma but lighter in taste and gentler on my taste-buds with the addition of club soda and minus a brandy floater. An acquired taste, I am sure; but, still a nice addition to your cocktail party when you want a little something different to wow your guests with.
What is your favorite unique cocktail, that no-one has probably ever made?
Recipe: Basque Picon Cocktail
*originally these were served in mugs, we like to use pretty cocktail glasses
*inspired by Shawn Espinosa
2 oz Torani Amer Liqueur
1 teaspoon grenadine
splash club soda
Fill a glass with some crushed ice. Pour the Torani Amer Liqueur over the ice. Top with the grenadine and fill the glass with club soda to just under the rim. Rub the rim of the glass with the lemon twist, then add to the drink. Serve. Drink.
If you enjoyed this dish, you may enjoy these others as well: