Circa 1930 estimated
Byrrh is an aromatised wine-based aperitif made of red wine, mistelle, and quinine. Created in 1866, it was popular as a French apéritif. With its marketing and reputation as a “hygienic drink”, Byrrh were sold very well in the early 20th century. It was even exported, despite the similarity of its name to “beer”, complicating sales in English- and German-language speaking regions.
Byrrh was sold in the United States until prohibition. As of 2012, Byrrh has been reintroduced to the United States.
Brothers Pallade and Simon Violet, itinerant drapers from Thuir in France, decided to take advantage of the wine fever in the region to develop an aperitif wine flavored with cinchona. They mixed dry wines and mistelles and initially marketed the resulting product as a health drink or tonic. This was because the local aperitif producers were displeased about competition with their established brands. Rebranding the brothers’ aperitif as a health drink got around this problem, and Byrrh was sold in pharmacies.
The Second World War initiated the decline of Byrrh. Aided by tax benefits, natural sweet wines such as Banyuls, Muscat de Frontignan, and Rivesaltes superseded Byrrh, which went out of fashion.
In 1977, the family business, divided by strife, was acquired by Pernod-Ricard. Pernod-Ricard still makes the drink in Thuir near Perpignan, (near Spain).