What Makes Alpine Liqueur Unique (And It's Not The Mountains)

Lots of hearty, heavy foods are associated with après-ski fare, from gloriously gooey fondue to the cheese, potatoes, and bacon dish tartiflette, enriched with Reblochon cheese from the mountains of Haute-Savoie in the French Alps. But when it comes to pre- or post-dinner drinking after a day on the slopes, one liqueur is the go-to, though its spelling differs depending on whether you're in France, Switzerland, or Italy: génépy, or génépi.

The amber-colored drink is made from the génépy plant, also known as artemisia, which includes the species wormwood — an ingredient in other strong alcoholic drinks such as absinthe and vermouth. Génépy, historically used medicinally, has a similar herbal and floral complexity, with the plant being steeped in neutral alcohol, sweetened, and enhanced with extra herbs to make the finished liqueur.

Now increasingly popular outside the Alps, this unique liqueur is endlessly versatile and can be served in a number of different ways. So whether you're in the bracing air of the European mountains or in a cozy bar closer to home, look out for génépy to add a touch of Alpine cool to your drink.

How to enjoy génépy

With its aromatic blend of herbs, génépy is often served neat, allowing drinkers to savor its fragrance and flavor. But just because it originates from a cold climate and is excellent chilled, it's a mistake to think it should be served frozen. An hour in the refrigerator before serving is the perfect temperature to enjoy the herbal liqueur, which some liken to Chartreuse, either as an apéritif or digestif. In fact, though the two are quite distinct drinks, génépy, made in the same region, is one of the best Chartreuse alternatives.

If you don't fancy it neat, the Alpine liqueur can be consumed with a water water or a cube of ice, or mixed with tonic and lemon as an alternative to gin. And if you prefer your drinks warm and comforting rather than cold and punchy, it's also traditional to serve hot chocolate, another après-ski classic, laced with fragrant génépy. The liqueur pairs especially well with cocoa flavors, and can also be enjoyed alongside a few squares of chocolate, as well as in the drink itself.

How to elevate classic cocktails with génépy

In addition to its more traditional serves, génépy can be utilized in a much more modern way, with its floral intensity enhancing and transforming several classic cocktails. Try shaking two ounces of cognac with one ounce each of fragrant génépy and fresh lemon juice for a strong yet sippable take on the sidecar.

Alternatively, modernize the Manhattan cocktail with the liqueur. Stirring a couple of ounces of your favorite single malt with ¾ ounce of génépy and the same amount of sweet vermouth makes for a powerful short drink, with a hint of aromatic orange peel oil adding to the intoxicating fragrance.

You could also try substituting the usual green Chartreuse in a bijou cocktail for génépy; the flavor pairs perfectly with gin, sweet vermouth, and orange bitters. Or, simply add a dash to a Scotch and soda for an Alpine twist, garnished with a zesty lemon peel; Japanese whisky works especially well. However you choose to enjoy this herbal favorite, and no matter the climate, it's sure to add a high-altitude intensity that's like nothing else.