Skip to main content

The Art of Homemade Infusions and Creative Ingredients

The Art of The Picon Punch

In the wide world of cocktails, the quest for uniqueness and personalization finds a home in the art of homemade infusions and creative ingredient combinations. One classic example of this trend is the Picon Punch, a cocktail with a rich history and a unique flavor profile that has evolved over time. This is a perfect example because the base ingredient can be blended at home to make your own unique version.

A quick history...
Picon Punch originated in the American West, likely in San Francisco, towards the end of the 19th century. It was during this time that Amer Picon, a bitter French aperitif, made its way to the West Coast, coinciding with the development of a unique cocktail culture and the establishment of Basque immigrant communities. These communities embraced Picon Punch, making it a staple in their family-style restaurants and boarding houses. Today, the drink remains a symbol of the Basque diaspora across the Western United States.

Traditional vs. Modern Picon Punch
Traditionally, Picon Punch is a blend of Amer Picon, grenadine, club soda, and occasionally, a small measure of brandy, garnished with a lemon twist. The earliest recipe for this drink appears in William Boothby’s "American Bartender" (1900), where it was simply called Amer Picon. Interestingly, earlier editions of the book featured orgeat instead of grenadine, highlighting the cocktail's evolving nature. 

House Picon Recipe
To recreate a version of Amer Picon at home, first make your own Basque Picon. I suggest starting with this base recipe. Combine:

  • 4 parts Ramazzotti (an amaro)
  • 2 parts Orange Tiger Orange Liqueur
  • 1 part Avèze gentian liqueur

in an airtight bottle and refrigerate until ready to use.

This homemade infusion captures the essence of the original Amer Picon while allowing for personalization and experimentation. You can fine-tune this mix by experimenting with the ratios, choosing a different amaro, adding botanicals (I am currently testing the addition of a star anise pod), blending in orgeat, and tuning up the sweetness.

To make your Picon Punch, combine the following:

  • 1 1/2 ounce House Picon (see House Picon Recipe above)
  • 1/4 ounce grenadine
  • 1 ounce soda water, chilled
  • 1/2 ounce brandy (ideally, Spanish)

Pour over ice. Stir. Garnish with a lemon twist or wedge. Makes one serving.

Why Orange Tiger Orange Liqueur is Ideal
Orange Tiger Orange Liqueur is an excellent base for complex cocktails, particularly like the Picon Punch, thanks to its authentic orange flavor and subtle bourbon notes. Its dry and low-sugar profile makes it a versatile ingredient, enhancing the cocktail's flavors without overpowering them. When used in the Basque Picon recipe, it adds depth and a sophisticated citrusy undertone, making the Picon Punch not just a drink, but an experience.

Great cocktailing at home can be as simple as experimenting with homemade infusions and creative ingredients. The Picon Punch, with its rich history and evolving recipe, serves as a perfect example of how traditional cocktails can be personalized and modernized. By understanding the characteristics of ingredients like Orange Tiger and amaro, you can craft cocktails that are not only delicious but also a reflection of your personal taste and creativity. Have fun shakin'!

About the author

Andrew Newby

Andrew is a passionate entrepreneur and experienced tech strategist with a deep love for craft manufacturing. As the CEO and co-founder of The Toledo Spirits Co. and HEAVY Beer Co., he leads the charge in operating our ecosystem. Alongside his ventures in the spirits industry, Andrew boasts a strong background in software product development, making him a versatile leader in both the agribusiness and tech worlds.