Curious About Byrrh? Make This Simple Cocktail


Photographs: Elana Lepkowski

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If you spot Byrrh at your local cocktail bar, it might be tricky to order a taste without pointing—it's properly pronounced something like 'beer', but it's likely not available on tap by the pint. What is this stuff? It's closer to say, Cocchi Americano or Dubonnet: a richly aromatic fortified red wine that contains quinine, making the taste akin to a light port with a mildly bitter edge. (There's coffee and bitter orange in there too—it's delicious stuff!)

The recipe dates back to the late 19th century—the story goes that two brothers in the drapery trade entered into the wine business via a side door by selling the elixir as a health tonic. In 2012, Byrrh was quietly brought back after a long hiatus that started with Prohibition. Now that it's available, you can drink it slightly chilled with a twist of lemon: it's a wonderfully flavorful aperitif. But it's also a standout ingredient in this simple gin cocktail.


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Though you can try it with any gin you have on hand, Caorunn Scottish Gin provides a clean, dry, and slightly spicy framework for Byrrh's bitter nature. The citrus notes from the gin accent those found in the Byrrh, and the drink gets an added touch of bitter citrus from orange bitters and a flamed orange peel. The complete cocktail is a perfect balance of sweet and bitter with a rich texture that lets you linger.