If you’re driving around France it won’t be long before you start to see faded paintings on the walls of buildings, advertising Suze, kind of like those painted barns in the US promoting Mail Pouch Tobacco. Suze is an aperitif, sort of sweet, sort of bitter. It has been around for a long time, since the early days of the 20th century.
We first spotted one of those Suze paintings not long before we tasted Suze for the first time. We liked it, and it quickly became a favorite for both of us; a tasty way to prepare the palate for dinner. These days we always have a bottle of it on hand, which is why what has happened over the years is particularly comical to us.
One evening at dinner at the home of friends in Alsace, we were asked what we would like to drink, and both Karen and I said, “Suze.” The room fell momentarily quiet, then people started laughing.
”Oh really?” we were told, “Nobody drinks Suze!”
Uh, well we did. So they suddenly managed to produce a bottle of the item that nobody drinks, and we had our Suze, to the amusement of the gathering.
We continued our journeys, happily ordering and drinking Suze at bars and restaurants along the way. Then we rented a house in the Aude and continued happily buying Suze at the local grocery during our stays. Although…there was the time our British friends came over for drinks. When I offered Suze to Mike he gave me a most quizzical look and commented that it was curious that we had it in our inventory. I didn’t think much of it at the time.
When we came to stay with Anthony for the first time and we asked for Suze, we heard it again…nobody drinks Suze. In fact, our family here found it…and continues to find it years later…a novelty of those wacky Americans who like Suze. Last time we arrived back from the States, Michel, with great feigned ceremony and a laugh, announced, “Tom, here is your FIRST Suze!”
Karen and I find this all quite amusing, since Suze is prominently on sale at the local grocery stores. But what is curious is that when you go into a café or brasserie and request Suze, you will get one of two distinctly different responses. On one hand, you may have a Suze promptly delivered to the table. On the other hand, you may get a look like you have two heads, and a distainful, “We don’t have Suze” from one of those people who believes “Nobody drinks Suze,” and we shouldn’t either. Ya just never know.