Byrrh was founded in the 19th century in France and this Grand Quinquina is a wine-based aperitif, with no added sugar – all the sweetness comes from the muscat base wine
The classic red aperitif of Belle Époque France is making a comeback. It’s pronounced “beer” but this potation is not made from grain. It’s a lightly fortified red wine, at 18-per-cent alcohol, rendered naturally sweet by the grape sugars of macabeu and grenache grown around Thuir, a village in southern France. Created in 1866 by two brothers, Pallade and Simon Violet, it began life like many other aromatized alcoholic beverages of the day, as a medicinal drink sold in pharmacies. Later it found a home in countless bistros, and by 1935 it was reportedly France’s leading aperitif brand, advertised in beautiful posters that have become collector’s items.
The sweet, alcohol-spiced base is infused with, among other things, coffee, bitter orange and cocoa as well as cinchona bark, source of the alkaloid quinine contained in tonic water, which was historically used to treat malaria. Light burgundy in colour, the drink is cherry-like and shows a lifted, herbal, aromatic essence – like red vermouth but more subtle. The coffee and orange notes come through with a whisper, as does the bitter tang of the bark.