Trust the French and Italians to create a spirit ideal for everything from augmenting hot chocolate to sipping after fondue. For more than two centuries, génépy (also known as génépi) has been the herbal aperitif and digestif of choice in the Savoy, a region of the Western Alps that historically included parts of France, Italy, and Switzerland. Like its relatives absinthe and Chartreuse, génépy utilizes wormwood (a species of the genus Artemisia, which includes aromatic plants like sagebrush and tarragon), but its subdued, floral nature and muted yellow-green color differ considerably from the “dark, licorice-y, heavy herbal profiles” of the former, says co-owner Quinn Gallagher of Hooch Craft Cocktail Bar in Aspen. “What I love about génépy is it’s lighter, and it’s really all about the Artemisia flowers.”
Génépy is made using the blossoms of wormwood endemic to the steep, high-altitude terrain of the Savoy. The little tufted yellow flowers bloom in late summer, when they’re harvested. Many inhabitants of the Savoy still make small batches of génépy according to family recipes, while commercial producers both distill and macerate the flowers with other alpine herbs in a neutral spirit, then sweeten it lightly to heighten the floral, woodsy attributes. At Alpine ski resorts like Courchevel, Méribel, and Chamonix, génépy is sipped neat, on the rocks, or in the aforementioned chocolat chaud as an après-ski restorative.
“Génépy very much has a strong sense of place, of alpine hillsides and meadows,” says Eric Seed, founder of Haus Alpenz, an importer and distributor that brought Dolin Génépy le Chamois stateside in 2013. “We were already selling their vermouth, but génépy is their mainstay, with all of the flowers wild harvested in the Savoy.”
Génépy is also coveted by bartenders as a base for low-ABV cocktails or as an herbal modifier. “I like to use génépy for a frappé-style drink, served over crushed ice, or in sparkling wine cocktails,” says Chantal Tseng, a Washington, D.C., bartender and founder of cocktail consultancy Cocktails for the End Times. “It’s lovely chilled and served neat, but also so adaptable.”
Even domestic craft distillers are getting into the génépy game. Brooklyn’s Forthave Spirits released its version, Yellow, in 2020. Founders Aaron Fox and Daniel de la Nuez collaborated with winemaker Zack Klug of New York’s Liten Buffel to create the fortified and aromatized wine. Meanwhile, Wisconsin-based Heirloom Liqueurs produces a génépy made with domestically grown Artemisia absinthium, tarragon, and Midwestern sunflowers, which give it a nutty flavor.
Wherever it’s made, génépy’s heritage remains firmly rooted in the Alps. “It’s the crisp mountain cousin to other Artemisia spirits,” says Tseng.
1 1/2 oz. génépy (Lumsden uses Dolin)
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
3/4 oz. fresh pineapple juice
3 oz. chilled soda water
Tools: shaker, strainer
Garnish: orange twist and a brandied cherry
Lightly shake the first 3 ingredients with ice, then strain into a Collins glass, add 3 oz. of chilled soda water, fill the glass with ice, then garnish.
Bryn Lumsden for Damn the Weather, Seattle
1 1/2 oz. bourbon
1/2 oz. génépy
1/2 oz. Lillet blanc
2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
Tools: barspoon, strainer
Garnish: orange twist
Stir all of the ingredients with ice, strain into a rocks glass holding a large ice cube, then garnish.
Quinn Gallagher, Hooch Craft Cocktail Bar, Aspen
1 1/2 oz. London dry gin
1/2 oz. peach liqueur (Tseng uses Rothman & Winter Orchard Peach)
1/2 oz. génépy
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
Tools: shaker, strainer, fine strainer
Garnish: lime twist
Shake all of the ingredients with ice, double strain into a chilled coupe, then garnish.
Chantal Tseng, Cocktails for the End Times, Washington, D.C.