This Basque-inspired drink delivers sparkling flavor
As summer wanes, we’re looking for drinks that can ease us into autumn.
Enter the Picon Punch, an afternoon cooler that works equally well as a predinner drink. Its flavor is bracing, with lively orange undertones.
The Picon Punch is not a particularly well-known drink, which makes it a fun choice for introducing to friends.
Because that’s what friends do.
Recipe: The Picon Punch Cocktail
The Picon Punch probably originated with the Basque immigrant population in the US (more on that in the Notes). It combines Amer Picon liqueur, grenadine, and sparkling water, then tops it with a brandy float
Punches that include alcohol almost always incorporate fruit juice – so technically this isn’t a “punch.” But what’s in a name?
Our favorite recipe for this drink is from Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to make and serves 1.
- 2½ ounces Amer Picon (or substitute; see Notes)
- 1 teaspoon grenadine (preferably homemade), or more to taste
- sparkling water to taste (we suggest 1½ to 3 ounces; see Notes)
- ½ ounce brandy or cognac float (you can skip this, but it does add flavor)
- garnish of a lemon or orange twist or peel (optional; lemon is more popular, but we like orange)
- Build this cocktail in a serving glass: Fill a rocks glass with ice. Add the Amer Picon and grenadine, then top with sparkling water.
- Stir briefly to mix, then add the brandy float. Garnish, if you wish, and serve.
- You could use crushed ice for this drink, though we generally just use regular ice cubes.
- What serving glass to use for this drink? We like a rocks-style glass, but a tall glass works too. You might sometimes see this cocktail served in a stemmed goblet.
- How much sparkling water to use? Really, that’s up to you. We recommend starting with 1½ ounces, then adding more if your taste buds demand it. We’ve seen recipes that add as much as 4 ounces of sparkling water. Too much, we think, but that might suit you.
- Grenadine is a mix of pomegranate juice and sugar. Sometimes it also contains orange blossom water and/or pomegranate molasses. It’s easy to make your own – see our recipe for Homemade Grenadine. Most of the commercial stuff is just colored sugar water that also contains a bunch of chemicals.
- How much grenadine to use? It depends on how sweet you prefer the drink to be. We suggest starting with a teaspoon, then adding more if you like.
- Amer Picon is a French liqueur with bitter (but seductive) flavor. It was unavailable in the US for many years. Amer Picon is back on the US market now, although with a different formula (so the flavor isn’t the same as the original).
- It’s still hard to find Amer Picon in the US, but there are some good substitutes available. We like Bigallet China-China Amer. In the western US, Torani Amer is widely available. For a more detailed discussion of Amer Picon, see our post on the Brooklyn Cocktail.
- Our recipe specifies 2½ ounces of Amer Picon (or substitute), which is a substantial amount. Some recipes call for less – about 1½ ounces. We don’t think the flavor is quite as good with the lesser amount, but you may disagree.
- The Picon Punch most likely originated in San Francisco during the 19th century, probably created by Basque immigrants to the US. It’s a very popular drink among Basque communities in the US – particularly in central California, but also in Nevada and Idaho. We first learned about this drink years ago on a visit to Louis’ Basque Corner restaurant in Reno, Nevada.
- This drink is so popular among the Basque community in the US that they reportedly have exported it back to the Basque regions of Spain. That’s something we hope to research one of these days.
“I’m basquing in the glory of this drink,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Smooth but piquant, you might say.”
“Some people pronounce it Pecan Punch,” I said.
“After a couple of these, I can see how you might forget your elocution lessons,” said Mrs K R.
“Of course, being sophisticated myself, I know that in French this would be pronounced Peek-own Punch,” I said.
“You’re trying to punch above your weight,” said Mrs K R. “Is that a good idea?”
Mrs K R pulls no punches.
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