Amer Picon Highball

Amer Picon Highball
1 Liqueur Glass of Amer Picon. (Amaro Ciociaro)
3 Dashes Grenadine. (1 teaspoon Small Hand Foods Grenadine)
1 Lump of Ice.
Fill medium size glass with syphon soda water or split of soda. Ginger Ale can be used if preferred. Add twist of lemon peel if desired.

It’s a bit odd that the only highball listed specifically is the Amer Picon Highball. Maybe because it includes Grenadine? In any case, this is pretty much exactly a Picon Punch.

What exactly is a Picon Punch? Well, to quote Chuck Taggart, “It’s the most popular cocktail in Bakersfield, California. Why, you may ask? I did, and looked it up — it ‘s the “national drink” of the Basque people, and there are lots of Euskadi folk and Basque restaurants in B’field (known otherwise only for Buck Owens’ place and for being the hometown of a lot of people I know who couldn’t wait to move to L.A.)”

So feel free to order one in Bakersfield, Reno, or even San Francisco. I have to admit I did not see anyone drinking them when we visited the Basque country in Spain, though.

Why am I using Amer CioCiaro instead of Amer Picon? The big reason is, I just don’t have any. I do have Torani Amer, but I have to admit that the rather rubbing alcohol-esque nose on Torani Amer always puts me off. But back to Amer Ciociaro, about a million years ago, Mr. David Wondrich, (aka Splificator) took it upon himself to taste through all the considerable Amari he had in his closet to find the one closest to vintage Amer Picon. He documented this on eGullet: A Bitter Truth

Not too long ago, our own Scratchline was generous enough to give me a half-bottle of the original, 78-proof Picon (thanks again!). The other day, I rummaged through the various hidey-holes where I keep my aperitifs and amari and rounded up enough to do a comparative tasting, Amer Picon against the world.

After much nosing and not a little tasting, the closest match in aroma and taste proved to be the 60-proof Amaro Ciociaro. Now, it’s not a perfect match (it’s a little more herbal), and admittedly 60 proof isn’t the same as 78 proof, but it does a great job of evoking the clean orange notes of the old Picon without being nearly as watery as the new Picon. Plus it avoids the vegetal notes of the Torani, which are entirely absent in the old Picon.

So when Mrs. Flannestad took a trip to NY, one of the things I tasked her with was finding a bottle of the stuff. Little did I know she would trek all the way to the now legendary LeNell’s in Brooklyn to find it. I knew there was a reason I married her!

In any case, such fortitude is no longer necessary in California, as Amaro CioCiaro is now distributed here and carried in San Francisco by Cask and K&L Wines. Cask, in particular, seems hell bent on resurrecting the amazing array of bitter substances previously seen only at the late lamented LeNell’s.

By the way, there’s no particular reason you couldn’t make a Highball with just about any Amer or Amaro, leaving out the sweetener if they are already particularly sweet. In fact, Amaro Montenegro is another one pretty close to Amer Picon. Though, now that I think about it, Fernet Branca Highball anyone? Rick? Angostura Highball? Dion? Jaegermeister Highball? Jeffrey?

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the drinks in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, the, uh, Sauterne Cup.

12 thoughts on “Amer Picon Highball

  1. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that the reason you didn’t see anyone drinking them in the Basque country in Spain was that in California the Torani product (which is the exact same proof as old Amer Picon, if not closer in flavor until more recently) satisfies the old traditional tastes. The current weak incarnation of Picon in Europe (with one variety intended to be mixed with beer, and the other with wine) is a pale shadow of the Picon of old. I’d guess that folks there don’t much bother with it anymore.

    That said, when we were in Paris a couple of years ago I had my first Picon Bière, mixed with a Belgian white ale, and it was pretty good.

  2. Good to know that the Cio Ciaro makes for the best available Amer Picon sub. I had it in my head that Ramazzotti was the way to go. In other Amari-related news, I tried something new (to me) last weekend that really had my taste buds rejoicing. Amaro Santa Maria Al Monte. Are you familiar with it? Reminded me of Fernet Branca’s less funky, more well-socialized, cousin. Eminently sippable and the fine folks at NYC’s Amor y Amargo deployed it nicely as the bitter component in a Negroni variation.

    • Well, the caveat being that was a few years ago. Though Ramazzotti was among those he tried at the time.

      I’ve seen the Santa Maria al Monte, great bottle, but haven’t had a chance to try it yet. I’ll have to put it on the wish list!

  3. I will gladly take an Angostura Highball, please and thank you. Perhaps even an Angostura Old Fashioned, though I’m not sure what to use as the bitters in that one…

  4. My in-laws are long-time patrons (regulars, some might say) at Noriega’s in B-field, and got me a bottle of Torani for xmas – they had to get it through the bar, nowhere else seemed to have it.

    I have somehow never had a Picon Punch in it’s native environment, but will be making a point of it next time I’m there.

    Noriega’s is a great spot btw, the food is great and the ambience like nowhere else. It’s *almost* worth going to Bakersfield for…

  5. Have to get these into the north. Forgot to order them today. I have an original 1970’s bottle of Amer Picon I inherited from K&L. Think it holds up that long? We could open it and find out.

    • Oh my. I’m pretty sure it does hold up. I had a taste of vintage Picon at Anvil once — they had found it in a little mom & pop liquor store near Galveston. It was spectacular.

    • Sounds fun, we can do a taste off!

      Amer Picon is spirit based, but probably just an infusion. Relatively high proof though.

      I’ve had some modern from time to time and the odd vintage sample. One was really interesting, I think the thing that fades most with time is the citrus.

      Name the place and time.

  6. I’ve got an unopened bottle if interested contact me. The label doesn’t match the new ones so I bet it’s the old version! It was in a dark liquor cabinet with five other bottles at my clients estate sale, unfortunately the others have already been parted!

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