Maurin Quina Liqueur was created in 1906 by Auguste Maurin in Le Puy, France. It is created by macerating wild cherries, quinine and bitter almonds in fortified white wine, and then blending it with cherry brandy, lemon juice, and cherry juice. About the same proof as vermouth, Maurin is considerably lighter, in flavor, color and viscosity. Taste-wise, it is like a lighter bodied, less sweet version of Cherry Heering, with an incredible Cinchona bark finish. The label of the bottle features a green devil fiendishly opening a bottle of the banned absinthe (historically). The artwork of Leonetto Cappiello, the label is perhaps more widely recognized than the drink, particularly in the United States as Maurin Quina became available only recently. Not one to miss new products, and having read about the possible arrival of this French treasure, I made sure to get mine as soon as it was available.
Although meant to be drunk straight (and it certainly tastes fine that way), Maurin Quina also makes a good substitute for vermouth in some recipes. It’s light quinine flavor may ruin some drinks for the purests, but I’ve found it an excellent substitute in the Negroni. It works in other cocktails as well, but it definitely prefers those drinks with a bitter overtone. It’s very difficult not to compare with vermouth, despite being so radically different. If you haven’t had a chance to try it, I’ve tried to give you a means to evaluate it against Carpano Antica, a very rich sweet vermouth. As depicted by the flavor wheels on either side, it shares some common “bitter” characteristics with vermouth, but is far fruitier and less herbal.
The real question, of course, is what to do with a bottle, should you find yourself in possession of one. I’ve already mentioned the Negroni; I don’t think I would recommend the Manhattan (unless you’re doing an orange bitter variant); but I did stumble upon a recipe that I was quite pleased with. I am naming it the Bitter Devil.
Based on the Negroni, the Bitter Devil does require some homework if you don’t have the Jamie Boudreaux Amer Picon substitute available. I feel like I’ve talked about or used his recipe a lot lately. But it has been the most useful “tinctures” to have around and boasts a very pleasant taste. The Bitter Devil marries the quinine flavor in the Quina with the bitterness of Campari and orange accents of the Amer Picon substitute.
2 oz Maurin Quina
1 oz Campari
1 oz Amer Picon Substitute
Prepare cocktail glass with a a few pumps of an atomizer of orange tincture (left over from your Amer Picon recipe). Garnish the glass with an orange peel (lemon also works). Combine ingredients with ice in a mixing glass. Stir until well chilled and strain into cocktail glass.
The three elements mix nicely, each bringing its part to the equation. The citrus of the Amer Picon overwhelms the cherry flavors of the Maurin Quina, but the bitter elements of both marry nicely and complement the bitterness of the Campari. In spite of the fact that all three ingredients are heavily bittered, the drink itself is well balanced among sweet, sour, and bitter.