Labor Day

A Refreshing, Lemony Session Cocktail Perfect for Slow Summer Sipping

August 24, 2018

Everywhere you turn this summer, there's no escaping the signature drink ruling the roost: the Aperol Spritz. It's impossible to hit up a bar or friendly gathering without encountering the unofficial summer drink of 2018. And I can totally see why the Italian apéritif is so popular—the color alone screams PARTY!, doesn't it?

I love it as much as the next person does, but guess what? There's another low-alcohol cocktail that's captured my summer heart.

Meet the Suze Tonic.

Oh, bonjour! Photo by Ty Mecham

I first came upon this refreshing slow sipper flipping through food writer and stylist Rebekah Peppler's upcoming book, Apéritif: Cocktail Hour the French Way, on a blazing hot day in late June, appropriately in the "drinks for the most sweltering of days" chapter.

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On looks alone, the tall icy glass promised the thirst quencher I so needed. The "recipe" felt like a familiar G&T—but Suze? What was that?

"Suze is an intense French apéritif, but the kind of intense that feels both insanely refreshing on a hot summer day and deeply nourishing on a cold winter night," Rebekah, a recent Paris-transplant, tells me. "That intensity (combined with a relatively low alcohol by volume between 15 percent and 20 percent, depending on the variety) makes it ideal for low-ABV cocktails because you don't need much to infuse the flavor of a drink with its bright yellow color and a nicely bitter, vegetal flavor—care of France/Swiss native yellow gentian root."

It's precisely Suze's signature bitterness that belies the drink's sweet and sunny–looking disposition; the cocktail is not cloying in the least, making it a great pre-dinner drink to get your appetite going, or an amicable (not to mention, less boozy) beverage to accompany salty poolside snacks and nibbles during the day.

The Suze Tonic isn't a new drink by any means, but it's a cocktail that welcomes tweaks to suit to individual preferences. "Suze's inherent bitterness is what some call an acquired taste," Rebekah says. "Pour lightly to start, add a bit more lemon to temper the bite, and dilute with tonic as you wish. I like to add a few firm dashes of Angostura bitters to my Suze Tonic to round out the flavors, but the real secret to making it delicious every time lies solidly in your choice of tonic water. I especially like Fever Tree and Q Tonic, but am always buying artisan versions and peeking behind bars to see what the tenders are mixing with."

With a short ingredient list and still plenty of summer left, the Suze Tonic is as welcoming a cocktail as they come—you'll get all the freshness and spirit of a great summer drink without, well, all the spirit!

A French Nosh, Perhaps?

Have you ever tried Suze? Let us know what your favorite day sipper is below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Grant Melton
    Grant Melton
  • Eric Kim
    Eric Kim
  • Hana Asbrink
    Hana Asbrink
Hana is a food writer/editor based in New York.


Grant M. August 24, 2018
This looks insanely delicious. I can't wait to make one (or three) tonight!
Eric K. August 24, 2018
Right? Sunshine in a glass.

You've made a Suze convert of me, Hana. Love the bitterness of this cocktail, tastes like you're sucking on a lemon.
Hana A. August 24, 2018
Eric: I love that! Where Aperol Spritz = sunset in a glass, Suze Tonic = sunshine in a glass. :)

Grant: Let us know how you like it! Hope you'll love it as much as we do. Happy weekend!