Browse around the houses up and down the street here—this one included—and you might run into one of these: an old publicity card for Byrrh apéritif. I’ve been looking at this one propped behind our telephone for 10 years, without ever really knowing what it was. Today, I decided to find out.
A blend of red wine, quinine and spices, Byrrh was developed in 1866 and introduced by two itinerant drapers, the brothers Pallade and Violet Simon, who marketed it as a health tonic so as not to offend established winemakers. More specifically, the claim was that it aided the digestive tract making it acceptable for women to drink in public. (Ah, liberation!)
Although it fell out of favor around the time of WWII, it is still being produced today by Pernod-Ricard. Should you be in France and should you care to try it, take it chilled with a lemon or orange twist. Or so I understand. I intend to get my hands on some, put my digestive tract in working order, and get back to you with a first-hand report of its real and/or perceived benefits.