It is typical of several regions of Italy, but especially Trentino and Alto Adige, as well as of parts of France, where it is called liqueur de gentiane, which is produced by distilling a maceration of the roots of the gentian.
The name genziana is also used for a digestif, typical of the Abruzzo region in central Italy. It is also made with the roots of the gentian, but by steeping them in white wine, with no distillation.
Gentian liqueur is produced from the maceration of the root of the gentian plant in alcohol, followed by distillation. Additional ingredients, such as other herbs and botanicals, are typically added after distillation. The resulting liqueur can be sweetened with the addition of sugar.
Yellow gentian (Gentiana lutea), one species in the genus Gentiana, is most commonly used. Less commonly, the roots from other species of Gentiana are used, such as the purple gentian, Hungarian gentian, or spotted gentian.
The taste of gentian liqueur has an element of bitterness that comes from the gentian root, of which the primary characteristics are "a dusty earthiness, dry floral notes, and vegetal character", according to Jérôme Corneille, production director of Salers gentian aperitif. The taste is also described as "grassy and vegetal; not horribly bitter," but having a "signature tangy aspect."
Gentian liqueur originated in the French Alps, in the modern-day Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. Mentions of "gentian" as an alcoholic beverage first appeared in writing in this region around the late 18th century, but gentian liqueurs did not rise to prominence until the late 19th century, after the invention of the continuous still allowed for the creation of neutral spirits, into which botanicals like gentian could be infused. These liqueurs were first sold as medicinal bitter tonics, but gained popularity as aperitifs.
In Germany, the liqueur is referred to as "Enzian" (the German word for "gentian"). Enzianbrennerei Grassl in Berchtesgaden, Bavaria has produced distilled gentian liquors since 1692, and is Germany's oldest gentian distillery.
As a spirit
"Gentian" can refer to a specific type of spirit made by the distillation of a fermentation product of gentian roots (with or without added neutral spirits). As a pure distillation product, this form of gentian is classified as a spirit. The EU regulates its alcoholic strength, specifying it must comprise at least 37.5 percent alcohol by volume.
- Angostura bitters – which contain gentian
- Suze – a French brand of bitters apéritif flavored with gentian
- Jean-Louis Clade, Charles Jollès: La Gentiane. L'aventure de la fée jaune, édition Cabédita, 2006. ISBN 2882954611
- Il Giornale del Cibo: Liquore di genziana: la ricetta del tesoro "liquido" dell’Abruzzo
- Abruzzoturismo.it - Liquore alla genziana
- Stradadeiparchi.it: Tradizioni d’Abruzzo: il liquore di genziana
- Kral, Sally (2022). "The Whisky Lover's Guide to Gentian Liqueurs". Whisky Advocate. M. Shanken Communications. Retrieved 24 February 2023.
- Difford, Simon. "Gentian Liquers". Difford's Guide.
- English, Camper (18 March 2022). "Bitter Botanicals: What is Gentian and Where Do We Find It?". Alcohol Professor. Retrieved 24 February 2023.
- Goalen, Kaitlyn (5 October 2012). "A Primer On Gentian Liqueur, The New Bitter Spirit". Tasting Table. Static Media. Retrieved 24 February 2023.
- "There's More to Gentian Liqueurs Than Suze". PUNCH. 25 January 2023. Retrieved 24 February 2023.
- "Salers Gentian Apéritif". alpenz.com. Retrieved 24 February 2023.
- Difford, Simon. "Gentian liqueurs". www.diffordsguide.com. Retrieved 24 February 2023.
- "Über uns". Enzianbrennerei Grassl (in German). Retrieved 24 February 2023.
- Regulation (EU) No 110 of 15 January 2008 on the definition, description, presentation, labelling and the protection of geographical indications of spirit drinks and repealing Council Regulation (EEC) No 1576/89, §18(a)