My first Suze

This, my friends, is a bottle of Suze, a French aperitif I’ve been drinking for the last two weeks in Brittany and Paris.

I’d never heard of Suze before it was suggested to our group of hikers at the hotel Manoir du Sphinx in Perros-Guirec on the Côte de Granit Rose in Brittany. Suze was listed in the drinks menu in the section devoted to Ricard and other pastis, pommeau (more about that in a minute), Campari and Pimms.

Normally I’m a pastis drinker myself, but Suze sounded interesting.

It was served chilled on the rocks (well, in France, on the rock, since they rarely give you more than one small ice cube) with a slice of lemon. The taste was bitter but light and refreshing – less cough-syrupy than a first taste of Campari, for instance. I later learned it’s distilled from gentian roots with other herbal and citrusy notes. Perfect for summer, and it was soon my before-dinner drink of preference.

A small glass of pommeau before dinner

Before learning about Suze, my friends and I drank a lot of pommeau, another aperitif, made only in Brittany and Normandy, composed of unfermented apple cider mixed with Calvados, the apple brandy. It’s a dark warm color, sweet but not cloying, and the Calvados gives it a bright kick. Pommeau was served chilled, neat. Calvados itself, we found, was just too strong for us.

Cidre brut, with kouign amman, a Breton pastry made with lots of butter and caramelized sugar

And, of course, because we were in Brittany, we drank a good bit of cidre brut, the dry alchoholic cider made locally. The organic versions, labeled bio, had a bit too much of the barnyard still lingering on the tongue. But I liked the fizzy stuff with my galettes, the buckwheat savory crepes people eat in Brittany.

Buckwheat galette, this one with salmon and dill.