Sirop de Picon
It is made from a base of fresh oranges which are dried and mixed with a solution of alcohol which is distilled. Picon also contains gentian and quinquina in equal measures. Sugar, syrup and caramel are added last.
Gaétan Picon, born in 1809, was a scholar who had an apprenticeship at the distillery of Aix-en-Provence, Toulon and Marseille. In 1837, after taking a trip to Algeria where he had been in the French Army, he invented Picon. The aperitif was placed in the category of bitter and was 39% ABV.
At the time, Gaétan Picon had created the first distillery to produce African bitters in an Algerian village, he then went on to create a number of other distilleries: Constantine, Bône and Algiers. In 1872, Gaétan Picon returned to France, creating the first factory for the production of Picon in Marseille (still in use today). In 1937, the company published a book called Histoire d'un Siècle Picon (1837–1937); the company slogan at the time was "Il n'est plus une partie du globe où n'ait pénétré le Picon!" ("there is no longer any part of the world where Picon hasn't penetrated").
Since 1995 Picon has diversified, and now makes two different aperitifs:
- The original Picon bière, which accompanies beer.
- Picon club, to drink in cocktails with dry white wine.
In the 1970s, the strength of Picon was reduced to 25% ABV. In 1989, it was reduced yet again to 18% ABV.
In 2003 the drink was mainly sold (70%) in the north and east of France. The total production was 4 million bottles.