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Desert Companion

Zeit Bites: Las Vegas, embrace the Picon Punch!

I’m on the hunt for a Picon Punch in Las Vegas, and I need some bars to help me out.

You can find this lip-puckering aperitif at Basque restaurants in Northern Nevada. According to the classic recipe, it’s a pour of Amer Picon — an old French liquor based on citrus, rooty and quinine flavors — with brandy, grenadine, soda water and a lemon twist over ice. I enjoyed a few on a recent visit to Reno’s famous Louis’ Basque Corner (pictured). Many regard the Picon Punch as Nevada’s unofficial cocktail.

Down here, I checked vintage bars like Dino’s Lounge and modern crafteries like Herbs & Rye. No luck. Most hadn't even heard of it. I looked in liquor stores for Amer Picon so I could make one at home. Turns out you have to import it from Europe, starting at $80 a bottle. Ouch.

Backtracking on the phone, I learned that Basque bars up north rely on a domestic substitute, Torani Amer. Eventually I discovered that the Total Wine & More in Henderson stocks the stuff. Still, a Picon Punch is best enjoyed at a bar or restaurant. It’s a convivial drink. I searched on.

I even got in touch with Assemblyman William Horne. In 2013, he tried to get an amendment passed legally honoring the Picon Punch. Sadly, nothing came of it. However, he did think that Three Angry Wives Pub in Boca Park might actually serve one. I stopped by, but still no dice.

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But! Picon Punch will soon be served in Las Vegas. Three Angry Wives’ owner Sean Higgins told me he’s enjoyed the bitter beverage in Basque establishments up north, and he’s putting the de facto Nevada state cocktail on the menu soon.

Now, can some more local bars show similar, um, state spirit? More Picon Punches for the people!

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