‘Suze’ was created in 1889, at the Rousseau, Laurens and Moureaux distillery in the outskirts of Paris. To differentiate his product from the many wine based aperitifs of the day, Fernand Moureaux decided to create an aperitif from the Gentian plant, a yellow Alpine flower with massive roots that dig deeply into the flanks of mountains. It is these same roots that are used to prepare the base material of the liqueur. Legend has it that Moureaux bought the formula from an old distiller in the Canton de Bern on the Swiss Jura Mountains where Gentian thrives, and where the river Suze flows. Here, Hans Kappeler had been selling “Or des Alpes” to the locals for years as a remedial tonic. Late in his life, sick and almost financially ruined, Kappeler may well have taken the opportunity to sell his creation to the French negociant. The story goes he convinced Moureaux that one day his liqueur “would flow in France like the Suze”, in reference to the river passing through the village. A more prosaic version has it that the aperitif was named after Fernand Moureaux’s sister in law, Suzanne Jaspart, who enjoyed the drink during sessions of tennis. Regardless, Suze became a sensation due to its original flavour. A testament to its popularity is the plethora of advertising material that was produced around the brand by illustrious artists including Pablo Picasso, and the nickname it received from fans – “The Yellow Fairy!” In the present day production of Suze, wild Gentian is still sourced from Jura, but also from Auvergne where other famous brands of Gentian liqueur are still produced. The modern-day Suze is much sweeter than the original recipe, but still includes all of the aromatic plants in its formula, though exactly which remains closely guarded.A true celebrity among French aperitifs.
Suze is an aperitif based on the maceration in alcohol of gentiane roots from the Auvergne, citrus flavors and aromatic plants. Golden in color, mouth-puckering and earthy in taste, it’s refreshing and absolutely addictive. It is a bittersweet beverage with a subtle flavor.