Amer Picon, seen here with its sibling Biere Picon, is a bittersweet liqueur from France that features in many early cocktail recipes (it’s also the backbone to Picon Punch, a Basque favorite). The secret blend was originally created in 1837 by Monsieur Gaétan Picon to ease a bout of malaria (Amer means “bitter” in French, hence the name).
The recipe was changed in the 1970s and the alcohol content was reduced (it’s now 21%). Word is the modern version isn’t as good. I haven’t tasted the original, but there is still lots to like in the update: orange flavors dominate, but there’s quinine, cinchona and genetian in there too. The result is bold and complex, fruity like a tangerine but bitter as well. The Biere version was spicier and lighter, and is for adding to a pilsner to create a shandy.
Unfortunately it’s not imported into the States – these two bottles were brought over from London – but bartenders go to great lengths to replicate the flavor in cocktails, while Amaro CioCiaro is said to be a decent substitute.