Amer Picon is a French bitter-orange aperitif liqueur that is, unfortunately, unavailable in the United States. It was, some years ago, greatly reduced in strength to, I think, 18% ABV. So maybe it’s not such a big deal that you can’t get it here, especially because there are alternatives. Torani (the fruity syrup company whose products you see in every coffee shop) makes an Amer at 39% ABV, and, recently, Golden Moon Distillery in Colorado began offering an Amer as well. There are other similar offerings available, usually under the rubric of “Amaro,” which is the Italian equivalent. Look around – a good liquor store should have something, or at least be able to order it for you.
Picon Punch is especially popular among the Basque population, both in Europe and elsewhere. Just about every bar in Bakersfield, CA, for example, which has a fairly sizable Basque community, makes a pretty solid version of this drink, according to Ted Haigh. I’ll take his word for it, because I’ve spent more than enough time in Bakersfield in my life (not a ton, mind you, but it doesn’t take much). It’s an interesting and refreshing drink which comes on a lot stronger than you might expect.
1 tsp. grenadine
2 1/2 oz. Amer
1 oz. brandy
Fill a collins or highball glass with ice. Pour in the grenadine and Amer, then fill with soda (about 3 oz. will do it). Float the brandy on top.
The Amer itself is bitter and earthy, but blends nicely with the grenadine. You get a pretty strong jolt of brandy up front, with the float, and as you work your way down, the drink gets more herbal and sweeter. It’s nowhere near as good as a Pimm’s Cup, but it’s an enjoyable tall drink in its own right, and definitely feels like you’re drinking something outside the range of normal bar offerings. A strong three livers.