With so many once unattainable European amaros, liqueurs and aperitifs now available stateside, bartenders and enthusiasts have the ability to stock their arsenals with an incredible array of once old, now new flavors. Made from red wine, herbs, spices and quinine, the fruity Byrrh Grand Quinquina has been circulating for over 125 years in Southern France and has been available in the U.S. for several years. However, with very few recipes that call for Byrrh as a core ingredient, the low-proof spirit has yet to really pick up popularity on menus.

Strangely, Byrrh (pronounced more like “beer” than “myrrh”) was once the most popular aperitif in France and possibly Europe, and it was often consumed on its own or with a twist to open one’s meal, similar to Italian amaros and in this case, its closest relative, Dubonnet. The need to put these spirits into cocktail-form is largely an American invention, which may explain Byrrh’s relative absence from traditional recipes if the spirit never caught on here in the first place. Traveling back in time, this cognac and cherry combo, simply called a Byrrh Cocktail, expresses the wine-based Byrrh beautifully, and was originally served at the Ritz Bar in Paris where esteemed bartender Frank Meier documented it in his The Artistry of Mixing Drinks in 1936.

Though it would be great to see a slew of new creations with this delightful aromatized wine, it’s good to first step back in time and get a feel for how the bartenders of the day would have handled this spirit. Byrrh was also found in drinks with Old Tom Gin, another once bygone spirit, or with Irish or Canadian whiskies. If you come across a bottle, I’d highly suggest experimenting with Byrrh as an alternative to vermouth, but note you may need to adjust the proportions to balance this bit of tonic-bitter goodness to your drink. Enjoy.