Proposed By: Jonathan
Reviewed By: David
A number of factors make this week’s post unusual. First, though I proposed the drink, it builds on a version of a spirit no longer available in the U.S.—Amer Picon—that David concocted from an internet recipe over the span of a month or so.
Second, the two of us are together… like, in one place… and at the same time… actual, not virtual.
We’re visiting our sister and mother in San Antonio, and, in the spirit of this too uncommon event, we thought it would be fun to construct this week’s post as a dialogue between our blog’s two cocktailian brothers.
JM: So, David, what is Amer Picon exactly?
DM: It’s an amaro. The word means “bitter” in Italian, but Amer Picon is a French variety no longer available in the states. A guy named Gaetin Picon developed it in the 1830s as an aperitif meant to aid digestion. The recipe changed in the 1970s—they altered the ingredients and lowered the proof a lot—so the current commercial version in Europe is very different from the original, Still, a lot of classic recipes call for it. You won’t find it at any liquor store, and, on the web, you’re more likely to encounter a discussion of what might substitute for it than a way to obtain it. That’s what I did. After a friend made me his version of Amer Picon, I returned the favor by making one of my own.
JM: How did you make it?
DM: I sent away from some dried orange peels—two ounces from bitter oranges and two from sweet orange—then put them in a big glass jug with some high proof vodka. They stayed together for a month. The recipe actually asked me to leave the jug two months, but I compensated by shaking the mixture up every time I passed by it. I think I was driving everyone mad with all the shaking. Then I added Amaro Ramazzotti, another amaro with gentian root and quinine and a little sweetness, some water to reduce the proof, and about half a bottle of orange bitters. I was supposed to use blood orange bitters, but I couldn’t find those. Instead I chose orange bitters aged in Old Tom Gin barrels.
JM: How do you know if it tastes anything like the original Amer Picon?
DM: I don’t, obviously. The internet recipe is a guess, and, changing the bitters and choosing the orange peels I did, I decided to call it Amer Marshallon. But I thought you might approve of the name.
So, anyway, it’s your turn. Why did you choose the Amer Picon cocktails you did?
JM: Since Amer Picon (or Amer Marshallon) isn’t readily available, there are very few recipes that call for it. The classic cocktail is Amer Picon punch, which is the national drink of Basque, and we have Basque origins. Since we’re visiting our mother though, and she is the mother-in-the-law of our three spouses, I chose the Mother-in-Law cocktails. I also chose the Brooklyn cocktail because we were serving a lot of people and did a Bushwick version of the Brooklyn in honor of David’s son, who lives in that section of Brooklyn.
DM: And the recipes?
JM: The Mother-in-Law is the most complicated… and this version makes three drinks.
1 tsp. Peychaud bitters (but we couldn’t find any and chose Orange instead)
1 tsp. Angostura bitter
1 tsp. Amer Picon
½ oz. orange curacao
½ oz. simple syrup
½ oz. maraschino liqueur
9 oz. bourbon
DM: So what’d you think?
JM: I only tasted it, but the mild sweetness was more to my preference.
DM: For me, it was also the sweetest, and maybe the most subtle. There really isn’t a huge influence from any of the secondary ingredients, though. As it’s nearly all alcohol and the others complained it was too strong.
JM: The other drinks were a Brooklyn and a variation of the Brooklyn called the Bushwick… these both make one drink.
2 oz. rye
¾ dry vermouth
2 tsp. Amer Picon
2 tsp. maraschino liqueur
2 oz. rye
¼ oz. Amer Picon
¼ oz. maraschino
DM: What was the difference, do you think?
JM: I only tasted the others, so it’s hard for me to say, but the dry vermouth made the Brooklyn less sweet, and it seemed even more potent.
DM: I thought so too, though I preferred it to Bushwick. I drank half of mine then switched with someone to try the Bushwick.
JM: I have a three-drink rule and succumbed to trying some Texas beers before we started.
DM: Me too, and maybe I should have had some rules, but… well… I didn’t. I had plenty of everything.
JM: So, what was the Bushwick like to you?
DM: It seems like we’ve used sweet vermouth a lot. Unless you choose a bitter form of it, sweet vermouth adds an almost punch taste.
JM: Punch taste?
DM: You know, like Tahitian Treat, or Hawaiian Punch.
JM: Ah, the drinks of our youth.
DM: Overall, I’d say I need to find some new uses for the Amer Marshallon. Your wife told me she doesn’t like these all-alchol drinks, and I’m beginning to understand her perspective. I may find some new ways to couple Amer with fruit… to balance its bitterness and echo its sweet elements.
JM: Or maybe just a splash with some lemon-lime seltzer. Or add it to something that calls for bitters.
DM: What would you think of it with tonic instead? You know how I love my tonic.
JM: If you love it, drink it. If you don’t love it, don’t drink it. There’s a rule for you.
DM: A good one. In any case, it was fun to actually make the drink together. Besides dividing the labor, I learned much more about how you operate as a cocktailian.
JM: Virtual has been great fun and accomplished our goal of communicating much more. Actual is a lot more fun.
DM: And those were our takes.
Next Week (Proposed by David):
Visiting our sister, I recognized that she has a half a bottle of cachaca from my last visit, so I looked for something that might make effective use of it. I chose the Amazonia, in part because the description said it’d be perfect for Sunday barbeque. Having tried some good barbeque on this trip, the recipe appeals to me. Summer has more than begun in Texas, but back in Chicago, we are just starting to de-winterize our grills.