Suze – What is it?
Suze is a Gentian drink produced in France, created back in 1885 by entrepreneur Fernand Moureaux as a counter to the wine based aperitifs of the time. First presented as “Apéritif à la Gentiane” at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889, the formula won a gold medal.
The signature bottle that Suze is sold in was inspired by a bottle found in Fernand Moureaux’s attic in 1896 and refined for Suze by his associate Henri Porte, and the iconic design has remained unchanged to this day.
Soon after, the gentian drink got its official name, named after Moureaux’s step sister Suzanne who was a huge fan of the drink, with the name trademarked by 1912.
Where does Suze’s flavour come from?
Selected for its bitterness and colour, the yellow gentian (Gentiana Lutea) grows in Jura, Vosges, Pyrénées, Alps and Auvergne mountains above 800-900m in altitude and takes between 20-30 years to mature fully.
In order to keep the gentian sustainable, Suze uses a 50:50 mix of wild gentian root which is harvested by hand and cultivated gentian root which can be grown more quickly in 9-13 years and can use some more mechanical harvesting using machinery designed specifically for the process.
In addition to the primary gentian root flavour, the Suze Bouquet, an angelica root distillate with a secret mix of herbs and fruit extracts completes the drink’s unique flavour profile.
Different versions of Suze
Suze is sold as a 15% ABV product in its home of France, while for export the Suze Saveur d’autrefois version is bottled at 20% which is more intense and sweet, bitter and fresh tasting as it has a higher level of gentian juice and more sugar in the mix (160g/l instead of 120g/l in the French domestic version).
What to make of Suze?
With its bitter flavour profile, Suze is perfect on the back bar today as tastes change and bartenders explore more complex flavours and drinks.
Suze makes a wonderful White Negroni mixed with a great quality gin like Burleigh’s Export and Lillet Blanc in equal proportions, simply stirred with ice and garnished with a twist of grapefruit peel.
The French tend to drink Suze simply with a single ice cube and a splash of water to cut the sweetness (even though the French product is less sweet to begin with) or of course you could try my Romarin Fizz, created for the Suze & Byrrh mixology competition in London I talked about on the BartenderHQ Podcast.
Suze is distributed in the UK by Emporia Brands.