Authentic Amer Picon is a rare treat and a great base for many cocktails and refreshing drinks.
Unfortunately, this bittersweet spirit is not available outside of France and Europe, which makes it difficult for oenophiles and cocktail devotees to enjoy its unique taste.
However, there are a few substitutes and close matches that can get you near to the orangey and subtly bitter flavor of this lovely aperitif.
What are the best substitutes for Amer Picon? While its flavor is very hard to replicate, many connoisseurs will forgive bartenders for using substitutes like Amer Torani, Amer Depot, Bitter Picon, Ramazzotti, CioCiaro, and others.
Read below to learn more about Amer Picon, how it came to be, why it is so difficult to find, and its many substitutes!
The original recipe for Amer Picon dates back to the 1800s. Made with orange peels, gentian root, and cinchona, this concoction is prized for its bitter, earthy, and sweet flavor notes.
It has a deep caramel-like color and can be found as the main ingredient in countless cocktail recipes, especially from the cookbooks in the 1800-1900s.
The drink was initially created for French soldiers to fight off the effects of Malaria and as a refreshing vitalizer. Afterward, it was taken into mass production and was sold across Europe.
However, with the addition of new entrants, the decline of bitter drinks, the saturation of the alcohol market, and supply challenges, Amer Picon became a regional spirit but was still widely, yet internally, sold in big supermarkets and shops.
Today, there are only a handful of authentic distilleries in France that can reproduce the original recipe. There are tales of travelers finding Picon in different regions but most of these claims are unsubstantiated at best.
You can try finding this aperitif online, but we would advise you against doing so as there are countless low-grade copy-cat recipes in circulation.
Please make sure that you double-check with other sources and confirm the authenticity before investing in it, as it can be quite pricey.
What Does It Taste Like?
If you are looking to replicate the flavor of the original Amer Picon, then we have bad news.
While there isn’t a definitive close substitute for this alcoholic beverage, you may still be able to borrow the flavor notes from other substitutes – which is how every non-European country does it.
First, let’s try to break down the intense but balanced flavor of the original Amer Picon recipe.
The original Picon consists of the following flavor notes:
- Orange flavor
- Bright tangy flavor
- Earthy aroma and flavor
How Amer Picon Is Used
Amer Picon is a central ingredient in many cocktails, punches, and other refreshing beverages. Since it is meant to be consumed as an appetizer, it is taken before meals and can also aid digestion.
The original recipe is 80-proof alcohol, which is equal to 40% ABV (alcohol by volume) – that’s a pretty strong kick! But it is made tenable with the botanical ingredients and its mix of wonderful earthy undertones.
There are many ways to mix and use Amer Picon. For example, it is widely used in punches. Of course, in the USA, nearly no one has ever been able to sample an authentic glass of Amer Picon. Bartenders instead rely on close-enough concoctions to match its flavor notes.
In Nevada, Picon is traditionally and famously served in many different bars with a wide range of cocktail options – but the bartenders make do with substitutes like Amer Torani mixed with grenadine, soda, a little bit of brandy, and a lemon twist.
Here are some famous and “close-enough” substitutes for Amer Picon:
5 Substitutes For Amer Picon
Amer Torani – 39% ABV (78 proof)
Known for producing flavored syrups that are commonly found in coffeehouses, Torani also happens to produce a version of Amer Picon.
It is the only alcoholic beverage in the company’s lineup and they are pretty proud of their version since it comes close to the original.
Amer Torani closely matches the sweet and bitter flavor notes but the brew seems to be tuned for the masses.
Keep in mind, bitter drinks aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, it is also partly the reason why the original recipe fell out of circulation worldwide amid other tasty spirit entrants in the market.
If you want to start with a guaranteed and “approved-by-bartenders” variant of this beverage then start with the Amer Torani. It makes for a great base for a wide variety of drinks and is a great aperitif in its own right too.
Golden Moon Bitter Picon -39% ABV (78 proof)
Here’s another great substitute that comes from Colorado!
Golden Moon is a famous distillery, known for its traditional distillation practices that are meant to bring out stronger and more genuine flavors.
This distillery also makes a version of Amer Picon that has been deemed by experts to be “a very close alternative.”
It uses the original recipe from the 1800s and hits all the right flavor notes and may even be termed as the perfect replacement for the original when it comes to the masses.
However, if you do a side-by-side comparison with the original, then on its own, Golden Moon’s variant may not be able to stand its ground but when mixed in the right proportions in cocktails – only true connoisseurs will be able to tell the difference.
Golden Moon sells its version online and in-stores. You may also contact them for more information on the spirit, its differences from the original, and a few great recipes too!
Ramazzotti – 30% ABV (60 proof)
Now we are getting into the distant substitute category of Amer Picon.
Ramazzotti is made from a recipe that was founded centuries ago and is based on a selection of 33 handpicked herbs, spices, and flavorings.
Does it have the iconic orange and zesty flavor? Yes. But it also has a mix of cinnamon, cardamom, galangal, and other herbs.
It packs a decent punch but since it’s less concentrated, you won’t be able to get the right “booziness” out of it.
However, when mixed with other alcoholic beverages and ingredients, you can make a ton of delicious cocktails – which also happens to be how other bartenders do it across America.
Amer Depot – 44% ABV (88 proof)
Hailing from The Depot in Nevada, this ingredient is yet another attempt at recreating the original Amer on US soil.
Much like the Golden Moon variety, this mixture uses the same selection of herbs and spices to make the drink – with a few notable exceptions.
Amer Depot is visibly lighter and doesn’t have the authentic dark caramel-like color of the original and unlike Golden Moon or Torani, this version focuses more on the orange flavor with the bitterness being sourced from cinchona barks and a wide array of other herbs and spices.
This drink may not be true to what Amer Picon stands for but it still makes for an excellent substitute, especially when it comes to making punches. The spirit can be had on its own as well and is one of the most widely used Amer alternatives in Nevada.
CioCiaro – 30% ABV (60 proof)
CioCiaro is another traditional drink that comes close to the flavors of Amer Picon but with some deviations.
It has a more pronounced bitter and cola-like flavor and derives its notes from herbs like cloves, Chinese rhubarb, cardamom, saffron, and more.
While it doesn’t quite capture the essence of the original, Amaro CioCiaro is still a very worthy substitute and is also widely available in North American and Canada.
It can also be found online and you can even make great-tasting beverages with it using simple ingredients.
It is perhaps the best way to vicariously experience Amer Picon without going to Europe!
Amer Picon is a traditional but extremely scarce ingredient for many cocktails.
While its availability might not be present outside of Europe, you may still be able to get a close match using the substitutes above. Here are a few related questions that you may have regarding this aperitif.
Can you make a close-tasting Amer Picon substitute at home?
It can be very difficult to make a replica or even a close substitute of Amer Picon or any craft spirit in general.
Since it requires a lot of knowledge of the ingredients, combinations, and flavor notes, its production is strictly handled by experts – and even they follow a very close-guarded recipe.
However, you can use many commercial substitutes to get the right flavor notes and create a range of wonderful cocktails using common ingredients and easily sourced alcoholic beverages.
Can I import Amer Picon from France?
Yes, but it would bear a heavy import duty which is why most bartenders just prefer using alternatives and locally available substitutes that may work just as well.
Some people have even been caught smuggling bottles of Amer Picon out of France and have faced heavy penalties.
All in all, it is not worth going through the trouble of legally bringing in a genuine bottle unless you have the intent and resources.
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