Gran Classico Bitters

August 2nd, 2010

Hello? Is this thing still on…? A busy schedule of work, rest, and play has left Oh Gosh! a little neglected over the past couple of months. I can only apologise for the lack of updates, but hope to remedy the situation this month. Want to learn about the old, now defunct Bacardi Elixir, or find out about some of the latest cocktail bitters around, or see some of the best bars in San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Paris? Then keep your eyes peeled. Today though, let’s take a look at a bitter of a potable variety that came to me thanks to a very kind bartender.

Gran Classico bitter

Brian Mac Gregor tends bar at the Jardiniere restaurant in San Francisco. The restaurant came highly recommended by my good friends Dinah and Joe, and while I was visiting San Francisco a few months back we enjoyed a delicious meal there which was made all the better by some incredible cocktails and wonderful hospitality from Brian. I clearly wasn’t the only person who enjoyed Brian’s cocktails and I was pleased to see him selected as a finalist in the G’Vine Gin Connoisseur Program.

At the closing party in Paris Brian served a rather tasty Negroni variation which is where I was introduced to Gran Classico. A traditional Italian bitters (though now made in Switzerland), Gran Classico is based on the original 1864 “Bitter of Turin” recipe from which Campari is also derived. It is created using 25 different herbs and roots, including bitter orange peel, rhubarb, wormwood and gentian, and bottled without colouring at 28% abv.

In contrast to bright red Campari Gran Classico is a muted clear amber. The nose is dominated by rhubarb, with a distinct herbal note and a hint of sweetness. In the mouth Gran Classico is surprisingly viscous, coating the tongue in a sweet rhubarb flavour which is gradually complemented by a wonderful balance of gentian and orange peel. The wormwood gradually reveals itself in the long finish and the overall result is a delicious herbal mix that displays far more complexity than the more famous Campari.

While I would happily sip Gran Classico on the rocks, it also makes a great cocktail ingredient replacing Campari in most traditional recipes very well. Perhaps my favourite so far though is the aforementioned Negroni variation – Brian Mac Gregor’s Negroni d’Or

Gran Classico bitter

Negroni d’Or

View in: oz | ml | shots

The Negroni d’Or represents a more restrained version of the Negroni, with an inviting golden hue quite unlike the original. The gin and Gran Classico ensure the traditional bitter, gin led flavours continue to dominate, but the added herbal complexity of the Gran Classico and the floral bouquet of the Dolin Blanc give it a less dominant, far gentler profile. Crisp and elegant, the Negroni d’Or is a perfect introduction to the Negroni for someone who might be put off by the more dominant original, but also makes for a great variation for the Negroni lover who fancies a change.

Gran Classico is available from Tempus Fugit in the USA, Les Caves Du Roy in France and in Germany.

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Posted in Amaros, Gin, Reviews, Vermouth

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8 responses to “Gran Classico Bitters”

  1. Gonçalo Gonçalo says:

    Nice to have you back, sir.

  2. keith keith says:

    I’m a fan of the Negroni and have made the switch to Gran Classico – It’s much better in my opinion.

  3. Neil – YetAnotherGin Neil - YetAnotherGin says:

    Sounds nice Jay,

    A big fan of the Negroni, and so much choice on the bitters selection!

  4. leo leuci leo leuci says:

    A traditional Italian bitters (though now made in Switzerland )have no sense…this is another fake brand born to take advantage of Italy name or heritage that in truth they do not exist in this product … me and a lot of other italian bartender , that they have studied for years the history of our products , we think is too much easy to speak about Italian style or ancient Italian recipe , and too many time we have seen this in the English or American market…the real torino bitter is not disappeared and if you want to try some real one you have just to trip and discover the original…too simple to put an italian name on a label and trick the market with this game…after the italian fake italian cheese , and the fake italian pizza style etc tec tec now also the fake italian bitter made in switzerland…this is not the right way my friends.

  5. Lukas Kauz Lukas Kauz says:

    Dear Leo, dear Gosh,

    an interesting discussion. I know both: the traditional torino bitter and the gran classico. As I’ m swiss I tend to be neutral;-) and I have to say that the one claimed to be the fake one -the gran classico- is slightly better. It seems to be fresher and more natural than the so called original. I just spoke to the producer of the gran classico – the gran classico is produced in Kallnach which is 15 car minutes away: they’ ve made bitters since the beginning of the 20th century in the fourth generation. A while ago they discovered old bitter recipes and they’re reproducing it.
    It’s a real small family distillery so no big marketing hush hush…
    Italian products have suffered a lot of globalisation: Even in Italy neither good vermouths are available in every supermarket (e.g. Carpano Classico and Punt e Mes) nor good Bitters. And the ones available in liquor stores tend to be not so good as they used to be.
    It’s a bit the same -embarassing- story as it is with italian wine, cars and football;-)). Good alcoholics are made of fresh and neutral ingredients.


    -Lukas Kauz.

  6. leo leuci leo leuci says:

    dear lucas
    I have of your same opinion about this new style of italian vermouth…
    now the big brand thinks just about business and they don’t care about the heritage and the real quality of a brand ,
    and i do not want to say that gran classico is not good ,probably is a really good spirit, the only things i really don’t like and i can’t accept is the abuse to use a fake italian image for sell more around the world…
    just write swiss natural bitter and sell…
    why they have to trick the market ?
    why they have to take advantage from the ignorance of the customer ?
    another things have you tried all the 60/70 different kind of original bitter and vermouth made in the piemonte region for say that gran classico is better ?
    i try gran classico and i think that is not a bad spirit but is nothing about an italian vermouth or bitter…like i say to you before why they don’t try to sell like the fresh swiss bitter if they are sure about the quality of gran classico ?

  7. Lukas Kauz Lukas Kauz says:

    Dear Leo, dear Gosh,

    thanks for all these inputs! I know about five good classic piemontese bitters and of course I d like to know the other 60 as well. Can you name a few of your favourites, Leo? Two years ago i spent quite a while in Rome I was shocked by the bad quality of cappuccinos and espressos: the average quality is better than in switzerland or in germany but the top coffee bars in Germany and in Switzerland tend to be better than the top Coffee Bars in Rome. Years ago the “italian” Coffees in Switzerland were so bad that you couldn’t drink it. It’s about the same with the bitters or with swiss chocolate. The secret about good and mouth melting chocolate is the “Conche” invented by Lindt but nowadays the good chocolates of the world come from italy (e.g. Gianluca Franzoni) or Spain – the swiss exception is Felchlin. But the method they make chocolate still is “Swiss” (Conche).
    The Gran Classico bitter is an italian bitter made in switzerland because the old recipe is an italian one like cappuccino will always be an italian beverage – made all over the world with great italian coffee machines of la cimbali, la pavoni or della corte. Italian cuisine will be italian cuisine despite it’s not always made in italy or made by an italian…

    Happy new year!


  8. New Blog Function | The Pegu Blog says:

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