Byrrh is an aromatised wine-based apéritif made of red wine, mistelle, and quinine. Created in 1866, it was popular as a French apéritif. With its marketing and reputation as a "hygienic drink", Byrrh sold well in the early 20th century. It was even exported, despite the similarity of its name to "beer", complicating sales in English- and German-language speaking regions.
Brothers Pallade and Simon Violet, itinerant drapers from Thuir (France), decided to take advantage of the wine fever in the region to develop an apéritif wine flavored with cinchona. They mixed dry wines and mistelles and initially marketed the resulting product as a health drink or tonic. This was because the local apéritif producers were displeased about competition with their established brands. Rebranding the brothers' aperitif as a health drink got around this problem, and Byrrh was sold in pharmacies.
In 1977, the family business, divided by strife, was acquired by Pernod-Ricard. Pernod-Ricard still makes the drink at its facility in Thuir near Perpignan, part of which was designed by Gustave Eiffel.
In popular culture
Advertisements for Byrrh are often visible in older French films or in films set in the France of the past. Some examples are L'aile ou la cuisse (1976) in which it appears in Auberge de la truite, An American in Paris (1951), François Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player (1960), "Jack of Diamonds (1967MGM) filmed in Germany. 1970 World War II comedy Kelly's Heroes, and the 1998 Steven Spielberg film Saving Private Ryan (1:59, in the background, as Tom Hanks' character, Captain John Miller, attempts to find coffee in an old coffee machine).
Mad Men Season 4, episode 6 ("Waldorf Stories") featured a Byrhh advertisement that won a CLIO Award in April 1965. AV Club Reviewer Keith Phipps notes: "One of the other Clios went to Byrrh, a wine-based aperitif whose failure to catch fire in America illustrates that even great advertising can’t sell something people don’t want."
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- Keith Phipps (August 29, 2010). "Mad Men: Waldorf Stories". AV Club.