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Basque Picon Cocktail

Basque Picon Cocktail

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The Picon, also known as the Basque Cocktail of the West is a familiar term 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 beginning 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 Basque 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 with friends at home.

I remember when we were kids and we got to tag along on an adult dinner 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 one.  As the cold ruby red drink rolled between my lips, onto my taste-buds, I was left gasping and speechless.  This was a potent drink and was nothing I had fantasized about for so many years.  I was shocked and scared as 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 the 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.


Recipe:  Basque Picon Cocktail

*originally these were served in mugs, we like to use pretty cocktail glasses
*inspired by Shawn Espinosa

** serves 1


2 oz Torani Amer Liqueur unless you can find Amer Picon
crushed ice
1 teaspoon grenadine
splash club soda
lemon twist

How To:

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.



If you enjoyed this cocktail, you may enjoy these others as well:

Pican Punch




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Sharon Mac

Wednesday 4th of July 2018

So happy to find your blog. I live in Dunsmuir ca. I've ask about picon at several bars and rest. and liquior stores. I first partied with it at Villa Basque in Stockton, Ca.Weeeee | Anyone out there knows where to look in the Redding area could sure help. THANKS

L Greene

Friday 22nd of December 2017

There is one ingredient you left off, you’re supposed to lace the top of the drink with a little Brandy then add your lemon twist. I lived in Reno for over 50 years and we would go to the Sante Fe quite regularly.

Denise Woodward

Tuesday 26th of December 2017

Thanks for the feedback on this recipe. I have not had with brandy; but, next time we make I will give it a try. Is there a brandy you like to use?


Monday 7th of March 2011

This cocktail is a staple with all Basque restaurants in Northern Nevada. It takes the right glass to make an accurate Picon, the correct glass is featured above. In my opinion, Paella and a Picon is like heaven. The author is correct, Picon's are an acquired taste. If your traveling through Reno, Gardnerville, Winnemucca or Elko, check out any Basque restaurant and taste a true legend!

sheila @ Elements

Thursday 17th of February 2011

Looks beautiful! Wish I could try it!

Carolyn Jung

Monday 10th of January 2011

I love Basque food, so I'm sure a Basque cocktail is right up my alley. The color of this one is gorgeous, too.