The gentian root-based Avèze aperitif is just one of a growing number of bitter liqueurs that have wended their way into cocktails in recent years. But whereas its French cousins, Salers and Suze, can be bracingly astringent to the uninitiated, Avèze is softer, more mellow, with a bit more body—a starter gentian, if you will.
“Avèze has a great weight to it,” says Toby Maloney of New York’s Loverboy, who praises the liqueur for its texture. “It’s round and unctuous and brings gravity and heft to cocktails.”
Created in 1929 by Emile Refouvelet, Avèze was, and still is, made from wild and cultivated yellow gentian grown in France’s Volcans d’Auvergne national park. There, it’s made much as it was nearly a century ago: Fresh gentian roots, harvested in the foothills, undergo a maceration in alcohol lasting up to nine months, at which point the mixture is left to rest for six months with a secret blend of herbs and roots before filtration and bottling.
Though it’s classically enjoyed either neat or over ice, occasionally with a topper of soda water, Maloney insists that Avèze can work particularly well with white spirits: “It’s a wonderful foil for the botanicals in gin,” he says, citing his Hallelujah IUD, a stirred mix of Citadelle gin, Dolin Blanc, Avèze and Peychaud’s bitters, served on the rocks. Likewise, at Scofflaw in Chicago, Luke DeYoung blends Avèze with gin, crème de violette and honey syrup in the First of Four. “I was riffing on the Aviation,” says DeYoung of the drink. Replacing the Maraschino liqueur with Avèze, he explains, “gives the cocktail body while not adding an overwhelming bitterness.”
At La Moule, in Portland, bartender Tommy Klus also finds gin to be a favorite pairing for the liqueur, though he’s experimented by mixing it with “single malt Scotch, tequila and mezcal.” In one such example—his French Connection, a riff on the classic Boulevardier—Klus substitutes Avèze for Campari and uses lightly peated single malt Scotch in place of American whiskey. Back on the East Coast, bar director Will Elliott of Brooklyn’s Maison Premiere and Sauvage pairs it with its more bitter relative, Salers. Shaken together in The Shining Path, the liqueurs are sweetened by lemon cordial and St-Germain. “Avèze has potency and lovely bitter notes that are very thirst-quenching,” says Elliott, who considers it an essential component to the backbar.
As for how to use it in everyday applications, bartenders attest that it’s actually quite simple: “Compared to other gentians,” explains DeYoung, “I have found that Avèze works the best as a direct substitute for classic liqueurs in classic builds,” citing the White Negroni, where it can stand in for Suze, or the Jasmine, where Avèze can replace Campari. He’s even used it to replace the orange liqueur in traditional Margarita, adding honey syrup to balance the sweetness.
“It shares a similar richness to most orange-herbal-spice liqueurs,” DeYoung concludes, “while adding a new dimension that can completely transform drinks you may have tasted countless times.”