'Clap Your Hands' is part of a series of blog posts focusing on items which were previously only available out of state.
Bonal Gentiane-Quina is now available in Maine. I picked some up recently at RSVP for just under $20. An aperitif wine, Bonal is aromatized (botanicals added) with various herbs, roots, etc. Like many aperitif wines there is a bitter component and in the case of Bonal that is largely due to the addition of gentian and cinchona (quinine). The inclusion of cinchona also places this in the category of quinquina.
Bonal originated in France during the 1860s. The addition of quinine to fortified wine was not uncommon (Dubonnet, Byrrh, etc) and was originally developed to aid in preventing the spread of Malaria (same thing with tonic water). The base to which the herbs and bittering agents have been added is Mistelle which is unfermented or partially fermented crushed grapes fortified with alcohol, often brandy, to stop fermentation. All this results in a product that is sweet, fruity and dry with a pleasant, but not overabundant, amount of bitterness.
The easiest way to start mixing with it is to use it as a substitute for sweet vermouth in a Manhattan, Martinez, Americano or anything really but understand that while there is a similarity between Bonal and sweet vermouth there's also plenty going on to separate the two. Which is great and why it's an interesting bottle to have on hand. Results when using Bonal will often be drier but more fruity when compared to the same drink made with sweet vermouth. I also find, and enjoy, that the bitterness lingers around on the finish. Traditionally, it's served over ice with a lemon twist (or splash of juice) and some soda - simple and delicious. Or drop the soda and add whatever twist you want.
Or try these:
Bonal & Rye - Todd Smith, Dalva, San Francisco
2 oz Rye
1 oz Bonal Gentiane Quina
1/2 oz Triple Sec or Cointreau
2 dashes Orange Bitters
1 dash Angostura
Garnish - Orange Twist
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass
Here's one of my favorite uses for Bonal. Probably not fair to put it in this post since it has Cynar which isn't available in Maine. It's nice though, so I'm including it anyway.
Untitled - Kirk Estopinal, Cure, New Orleans
1 oz Rye
1 oz Cynar
1 oz Grapefruit Juice
1 oz Bonal Gentiane-Quinha
Grapefruit twist - Express and discard
Stir briefly with ice and strain into wine glass
Variation - You can drop the grapefruit juice (but still use the twist the same way) for an 'As Wine Stands Time' also by Estopinal.