Once in a while, we develop something of a crush on a cocktail ingredient we just can’t get out of our minds. And this spring, that’s Byrhh. (Pronounced like “beer,” not like the sound you make when it’s freezing outside.) Like vermouth, it’s an aromatized wine, generally served as an aperitif; it’s flavored with coffee, bitter orange, and quinine, among other ingredients. Some aperitifs with quinine can be almost dangerously bitter, but not Byrhh. With a weighty grape flavor, red and juicy, it develops just a gentle bitterness on the tongue and finishes like a dry, earthy red wine.
We killed a bottle in one night (oops?) just sipping Byrhh straight, over ice with a twist of lemon, but found it works beautifully in cocktails, too. Pick up a bottle and try it out in these three drinks.
Easy: Byrhh Sparkler
No surprise here: Wine pairs well with sparkling wine. Byrhh + soda is a tasty combination, but Byrhh + bubbles is even more fun. Don’t skimp on the garnish.
Instructions: In a cocktail flute, combine an ounce of Byrhh and three ounces sparkling wine. Give a quick stir. Garnish with a long, thin lemon peel.
Intermediate: Byrhh & Gin
In creating this drink, we thought back to the Martinez—a predecessor to the Manhattan, made with gin, sweet vermouth (rather than dry), and maraschino liqueur. We thought the gin-sweet vermouth pairing could translate nicely to Byrhh, but found that it works best when the gin backs up the aperitif, not the other way around. This cocktail ends up rich and weighty, with the pronounced botanicals of gin gently peeking through—delicious stuff.
Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, combine 2 ounces of Byrhh, and one ounce of gin (we’re using Plymouth). Add one dash of orange bitters. Stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon wheel.
Advanced: Byrhh Sour
A slightly obscure classic, the New York sour is a favorite of ours, a bourbon sour made with egg white and a drizzle of red wine as a dramatic garnish. Here, we’re turning up the dial on the wine element, in a sour that incorporates even more Byrhh than bourbon, with plenty of lemon to kick in the acid.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker without ice, combine one and a half ounces of Byrhh, an ounce of bourbon, 3/4 ounce of fresh lemon juice, 1/4 ounce of simple syrup, and one egg white. Shake all that up without ice to aerate it—that’s called a “dry shake”—and then add ice and shake again for a “wet shake,” to chill it down. Strain into a cocktail glass. Carefully dash three drops of Angostura bitters on top, and gently drag them around the foam (with a toothpick or cocktail pick) to decorate.