With Bitter Lovers around the corner, we've been talking about amari a lot lately. Though technically not an amaro, Bonal Gentiane Quina shares many traits with its Italian counterparts. A French aperitif wine, Bonal was created in 1865 by a monk named Brother Raphael and is commonly known as "ouvre l’appétit" or the key to the appetite. Aperitifs are similar to Italian amaris in that they often infuse bitter botanicals into a base of alcohol. In the case of Bonal, this base is a fortified wine called Mistelle. Unlike typical wines which result from the fermentation of grape juice, Mistelle is made by adding alcohol (often brandy) to the juice of the crushed grapes instead of fermenting. Since the fructose of the juice has not been converted to alcohol, Mistelle has a characteristic fresh fruit flavor. But Mistelle alone would not be Bonal. The infusion of gentian root, cinchona (quinine) and herbs of the Grand Chartreuse mountains give it a characteristic flavor unlike many other aperitifs you'll find today.
With one of the key ingredients of Bonal being cinchona bark, the base of modern day quinine (tonic) water, the first thing we reached for was gin. You know, gin and tonic? The gin from our friends at Corsair is incredible and, sure enough, it paired perfectly with Bonal, especially when lightened to a effervescent cocktail with a little soda water.
Okay, enough talk already. . . Let's make the damn drink!
2 oz Bonal Gentiane-Quina
1 oz Corsair Gin
2.5 oz seltzer
long strip of lemon peel
Fill a Collins glass with ice and build the cocktail in the glass, starting with Corsair Gin, adding Bonal and seltzer. Stir lightly to distribute and garnish with the strip of lemon zest, circled inside the glass.