Prized for its bracing bitterness, Suze, a French liqueur dating back to 1889, has become something of a cult favorite among bartenders since making its way stateside in 2012. Identifiable by the bottle’s distinctive amber glow and its gentian-forward flavor, the timeless aperitif demonstrates unexpected versatility, equally at-home in something light and bubbly or complex and spirituous.
Traditionally consumed on the rocks or topped with soda water in its native France, a small dose can enliven a variety cocktails, adding a bitter, herbal punch. Chaim Dauermann of New York’s The Up & Up, for example, leans on Suze, alongside Angostura bitters and lime cordial, to amp up the bitter quotient in his Insanely Good Gin and Tonic. In another spin on a timeless classic, the White Negroni, Suze replaces Campari while sweet vermouth is swapped out for floral Lillet, resulting in a lighter, golden-hued variation.
In pared down, three-ingredient formulas, Suze demonstrates its ability to work in concert without stealing the show. Less than an ounce in Natasha David’s Champagne Cocktail is enough to lend color and bite, without overpowering the passionfruit liqueur or sparkling wine topper in this modern spin on the Champagne Cocktail. Paired with smoky mezcal and floral bianco vermouth in Timothy Miner’s Fumata Bianca, on the other hand, Suze shows its more herbal side.
Suze is capable of holding its own alongside bolder ingredients as well. In Seth Freidus’ The Memory Remains, Suze stacks up against rye, sweet vermouth and smoked cacao and coffee bean-infused Curaçao, for a complex cocktail that packs a punch without being thrown off balance. Like the Metallica song for which it’s named, it boasts a strong start and an aggressive end.