Suze is an aperitif made from the roots of the Yellow Gentian which grows in the Auvergne and is a bitter sweet drink with a subtle flavour. It was invented by the Parisian distiller Fernand Moureaux in 1889. It was in 1889 that he took the roots of Gentiana lutea for his new drink.
Gentian has been used as a tonic since ancient times - according to Pliny the Elder, Gentian takes its name from Gentius, the King of Illyria (180-168 BC) who said to have discovered its healing properties.
There are quite a few Gentian based apéritifs in France – Salers is another popular variety. This was also invented in the 19th century by Alfred Labounoux. It is made using only wild gentian roots from the volcanic slopes of the Auvernian mountains. The roots are sorted, ground and left to infuse. It is then aged in great casks made of oak from the Massif Central.
The roots of the Gentian are dug up by the inhabitants of the Auvergne mountains using a two-pronged tool nicknamed "the devil's fork". The work is long and difficult, and there are no modern processes which have made it any easier. The plant takes around 20 years to reach its adult size, and only flowers every other year. The roots are pulled from June to September, then sorted, washed, and ground while still fresh.
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