Invented in Algeria in 1837 by Gaétan Picon after his service in the French army, this popular beer chaser is made from dried oranges and orange zest, macerated in alcohol, with the addition of gentian and chinchona bark (quinine), sugar, syrup and caramel. Sold to French troops in North Africa, Picon owed its initial popularity to the malaria-fighting powers of quinine.
In 1872, Picon returned to France and opened a distillery in Marseille (where Picon is still based today). Thanks to an astute advertizing campaign and a prize at the 1862 Universal Exhibition in London, it became popular all across France.
In northern and eastern France and Belgium, drinkers like to add Picon to beer (the original version is known as Picon bière), while the company also makes a Picon club, to add to white wine cocktails, notably Picon Punch, invented by Basque immigrants in the USA.
Image by Claus Ableiter