Our vacation souvenirs tend to be fairly minimalist. Without much space at home, we don’t have room for a vast collection of snow globes… which, to be honest, no one’s that busted up about. Local candy and booze, however, do always seem to find room in our homeward-bound luggage. Our recent trip to Spain netted us a ton of delicious turron, a jar of anchovies, and a bottle of gentian liqueur.

Both the nutty delicious nougat and the anchovies were from the area we were staying. The gentian liqueur, however, actually came from France and was just bottled in Spain–much to Mr. T’s irritation. Given that we were practically in France anyway, I told him it didn’t really matter. And, in any event, we now had a big bottle of liqueur to do something with.

This doesn’t seem like much of a challenge as the flavor is a quite fascinating one: green and grassily bitter with notes of artichoke first and foremost, but there’s a definite sweetness as well, with hints of vanilla and butterscotch. It is an aperitif, though, so those green bitter notes predominate. Not so much, though, that it couldn’t be drunk on the rocks by itself–which it is.

Sipping on the rocks, though, while simple and lovely, is just not the PassionFruits way. And, aside from offering a recipe for a white Negroni, in which the Campari is replaced by the gentian liqueur, the Internet didn’t have much to say, though I did learn that gentian is also a key ingredient in several types of bitters and other aperitifs–Aperol, for example. This isn’t terribly surprising given their flavor profiles and general uses. Several gentian liqueurs–Salers, Suze, and Avèze–are available in the US, if something of a challenge to locate.

We tried the white Negroni and found it a bit robust for these waning days of summer. We then fiddled around with sparkling wine and various citrus juices and garnishes. But for all our experimentation, a light combination of liqueur, a splash of syrup, club soda, and an orange twist seemed to be just right. Go easy on the syrup at first as the soda seems to mute the bitterness and allows more of the liqueur’s sweetness through. 

If bracing long drinks like the Negroni or Campari and soda appeal, then you’ll like the Zephyr Gentiane–named after the soft, west winds–very much. It’s a bit lighter, sweeter, and greener, which can all be good things.

Zephyr Gentiane
Yield: 1 serving

2 oz gentian liqueur
1/2oz – 1oz simple syrup
club soda to fill
orange twist

Combine liqueur and syrup (to taste) in a ~10 oz Collins glass. Add ice and top with club soda, stirring gently to combine. Rub rim of glass with orange twist and add the twist to the glass. Serve immediately.

Notes & Variations
If you wanted to do a honey simple syrup (1 part sugar, 1 part honey, 2-3 parts water), I would certainly not try to dissuade you. The honey, esp. if a strongly flavored one, supports and broadens the liqueur’s complex flavors.