Amer is the French version of what is called Amaro in Italy, and which we have already mentioned in our taste test of ‘The bitter note’. The best-known French Amer is ‘Picon’. This brand from northern France is so well known that nobody actually talks about ‘Amer’, but about a ‘Picon’. However, the Picon brand has not yet launched an alcohol-free version of its Amer, so we had to look for an alcohol-free alternative to Amer from other producers. After a little research, we found two alcohol-free Amers, one at Sommer, another at Wolfberger. Two producers based in the Alsace, where Amer is extremely popular.
Picon Bière or Picon Vin Blanc?
Amer is rarely drunk pure in France, but is usually added to beer or white wine. In Italy, they prefer to drink their Amaro pure and you could as well do that with an Amer. We too drank some pure Amers, just to be able to make a comparative taste test of our two aclohol-free ‘Picons’. Later we will experiment a bit in our search for the ideal Picon Vin Blanc and Picon Bière, because that is what most people are looking for.
Bitter or sweet?
When we compare the two Amers, it is certainly not difficult to taste the differences. Both taste and mouthfeel are totally different. The Amer from Wolfberger is clearly a lot more bitter than that of Sommer and is a lot less syrupy. That syrupiness in the Sommer is probably because there is significantly more sugar added to the Sommer than to the Wolfberger. This becomes immediately clear when tasting, but also when you compare the energy value of the two drinks. Wolfberger contains 52 kcal per 100 ml., while Sommer contains 127 kcal for 100 ml., which is approximately 2.5 times as much. So it makes perfect sense that the Sommer tastes a lot sweeter than the Wolfberger, which is a lot more bitter.
In addition to a variety of herbs, both Amers also contain oranges. The taste of the oranges is a lot more prominent in the Sommer than in the Wolfberger, perhaps also because the extra sugar makes the you more aware of the taste of oranges. Because you do not normally drink the drinks pure, you should bear in mind that the result of your mix will be a lot sweeter and fruity when you use Sommer and a lot more bitter when you add Wolfberger to your beer or wine. Which of the two you prefer will therefore depend on your own taste. If you like sweet drinks, you should probably choose the Sommer, when you are fond of bitterness, you will be better off with the Wolfberger. We could also have included The Bitter Note in this taste test, but no orange is used in it, so it’s not really a substitute for the typically French Picon. If you don’t like sweets at all, The Bitter Note is a good alternative.
Both products may not be easy to find in the local supermarket, but can be ordered online on a number of France websites such as www.alsacegourmets.com or www.adam-boissons.fr. Both sites deliver throughout Europe. If shipping costs are high, it is best to order a few bottles to spread the shipping costs.