I was originally planning to title this post “A White Negroni and the Trouble with Suze” as a way of venting the frustration I had accumulated while playing around with the bitter French aperitif to largely lackluster results. My struggle came not necessarily from the liqueur itself, but rather from how it seemingly refused to play well with others. I found that the very qualities that make Suze such a singular spirit when enjoyed on its own—a quick splash of sweetness followed by an intense and long, lingering bitterness—also make it somewhat difficult to tame in the context of a mixed drink. Definitely not an impossible task, but perhaps one of the reasons you don’t see a heck of a lot of cocktails with Suze in them.
Now, I like my bitter aperitifs as much as the next guy, but when it comes to cocktails I prefer balance. And that proved to be the main challenge in constructing this drink since despite many efforts to reign in Suze’s persistent bitterness in various ways, it continually bullied its way to the front of the palate. Eventually, thankfully, finally, and much to my pleasure, lest I feel as though I’d wasted a few weeks time not to mention half a bottle of a perfectly wonderful bitter liqueur, I arrived at a combination of gin, Suze, and vermouth that, to me, felt balanced. (And that, coming from a Libra, should carry some weight.) However, the perfectionist in me wasn’t quite content.
After tasting a version mixed with Old Tom and another with a London Dry—each lending their own unique and interesting flavor profiles—I decided to split the difference and go with equal parts Hayman’s Old Tom and Plymouth, which makes for a nice combination and also appeases the Negroni purist in me by keeping the drink in equal parts. The coup de grâce is a trio of lemon peels twisted over the drink. Of course, as always, you are free to play with the gins to satisfy your own taste, but the following is how the drink is served at our house.
Anger That Forgot Where it Came From
3/4 oz. Plymouth Gin
3/4 oz. Hayman’s Old Tom Gin
3/4 oz. Suze
3/4 oz. Dolin Blanc Vermouth
3 wide lemon twists
Combine the gin, Suze, and vermouth in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until well chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, twist the three lemon peels over the drink, and drop one in for garnish.