Circa 1925 estimated
Picon is a caramel-colored, flavored bitter drunk as an aperitif, which traditionally accompanies beer in the east and north of France.
It is made from a base of fresh oranges which are dried and mixed with a solution of alcohol which is then distilled. Picon also contains gentian and quinquina in equal measures. Sugar, syrup and caramel are then added.
Gaétan Picon, born in 1809, was a scholar who had an apprenticeship at the distillery of Aix-en-Provence, Toulon and Marseille. In 1837, after taking a trip to Algeria, where he had been in the French Army, he invented Picon. The aperitif was placed into the category of bitter and was 39% ABV.
At the time, Gaétan Picon had created the first distillery to produce African bitters in an Algerian village, he then went on to create a number of other distilleries: Constantine, Bône and Algiers.
In 1862 the Universal Exhibition in London took place. The French government invited the industry to take part of it. The sub-prefect of Philippeville, Jean-Baptiste Nouvion, did not fail to urge Gaëtan Picon in this direction. These events were common at this time and he turned a deaf ear. Seeing this, the sub-prefect stubborn, took it upon himself, without telling it to the manufacturer, to ship a case of African Amer in London.
The product, then belonging to appetizers category Bitter (bitter), is crowned with a bronze medal at the Universal Exhibition of London in 1862, which will make Gaëtan Picon’s fortune.
In 1872, Gaétan Picon returned to France, creating the first factory for the production of Picon in Marseille (still in use today). In 1937, the company published a book called Histoire d’un Siècle Picon (1837–1937); the company slogan at the time was “Il n’est plus une partie du globe où n’ait pénétré le Picon!” (“There is no longer any part of the world where Picon hasn’t penetrated”).The slogan involves a common pun in French.