Primer: Gentian Liqueur
If it's bitter, liquid and boozy, there is a good chance there is a bartender obsessed with it.
And when it comes to the latest emerging bitter-spirits category, gentian liqueur, the obsession is more than warranted. The skinny:
How It's Made: Gentian liqueurs have a long history as a popular aperitif in France, specifically in the region of Auvergne, where the drink was originally produced. To create the liqueur, the root stalks of gentian plants, along with a few other key botanicals, are macerated in grain alcohol, then filtered.
Light and Easy: Unlike popular bittering agents such as Fernet Branca and amari, gentian liqueurs are light in color and in ABV (20 percent to Fernet's 40 percent). As Toby Maloney, a bartender in New York and Chicago, puts it: "They offer complexity without getting you hosed."
How to Drink It: In France, the spirit is enjoyed as an aperitif over ice with a hearty squeeze of lemon. Eric Seed, importer of the gentian liqueur Salers, says this simple cocktail is crucial: "When you taste it neat for the first time, it's easy to think that the French must be crazy for loving it. The lemon and ice really bring out the full flavor." But in the States, where it is just coming on the market, gentian is more popular as a cocktail component: See our favorite brands and cocktail recipes here.
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