Génépi: The Traditional Drink of the Alps

Génépi is a high alpine plant. The silver branches of this wormwood are found at elevations above 2,000 meters and are harvested in late July and August.  These aromatic branches are then steeped in pure grain alcohol for forty days. The contents are then filtered and fit for consumption. This drink can be taken straight at room temperature or chilled. It can also be added to coffees or desserts. Génépi filled chocolates can be found throughout the region. Génépi is also a commonly used ingredient in a Grolle.

Making Genepi

Making Genepi

The taste is unmistakable and unique in itself. The closed taste comparable to génépi is perhaps chamomile paired with a freshness reminiscent of spearmint. Before it became a pick-me-up for skiiers, this drink was believed to have medicinal qualities. A deep inhale of this brew will certainly clear your sinuses.

A mature bottle of génépi varies from light gold to light green. Many commercial varieties are a bright green due to added food coloring. Génépi is available at most bars, restaurants, and markets in the French/Italian/Swiss Alps. Most local families have their own special place for collecting génépi. This plant only flowers once a year and, like most high alpine plants, it does not survive well in high traffic, overpicked locations. So do not expect any locals to give up the location of their génépi spots. And if you ask a local how to make génépi, they will simply say forty-forty-forty.

40/40/40 Savoyard

40 branches of génépi

40 grams of sugar

40 days of steeping

In a liter of pure grain alcohol

The composition of this drink is comparable to absinthe. You’ve been warned.

French Alps

French Alps

It Started with Drinking Coffee and Booze Out of a Wooden Shoe

Shepherds in the region of Savoie, France would share a mix of hot coffee and alcohol in a wooden shoe. This is where the concept of the grolle originated. A grolle is a carved bowl known as a coupe de l’amitie (cup of friendship).

This beautiful wooden bowl can have anywhere between 2 to 10 becs (spouts). Each participant drinks in turn from their own spout. Customarily, the bowl is not put down on the table until it is empty. Its cap is sometimes carved with a design that can be rotated to indicate the next spout to be used.

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Here are the traditional ingredients for your own grolle experience.

Ingredients

For 4 people

  • 4 cups of coffee
  • 1 cup of eau-de-vie or génépi
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • orange and/or lemon zest

First add your citrus zest and sugar to your grolle. Pour in your coffee and then your alcohol. If you want to add some flare, literally, light it and then cap it.

Génépi is a local alcohol made in the alps from the high alpine plant of its namesake, génépi. Cognac and Rum are suitable substitute for this recipe.

The more you use your grolle the better it gets. Enjoy!

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