Basque Picon Punch Could be State Drink of Nevada
Picon Punch, a quintessential Basque concoction, has been a perennial favorite at Basque festivals and restaurants for generations. Now, the tasty but potent cocktail could have even wider appeal if a Nevada assemblyman has his way.
Picon Punch is being proposed as the state drink in Nevada by Assemblyman William Horne.
The Las Vegas-area lawmaker says he is spearheading the effort because of the Basques’ longtime history in Nevada, where Basque men came to claim their stake in the American West by herding sheep.
“There was a request for a need to have a state drink,” he said in a story in the Las Vegas Sun. “What better than the Picon Punch? Me growing up here, it’s the only drink that I know of that has a Nevada tie. The Basque culture, particularly in Northern Nevada, I thought it was appropriate that that be our state drink.”
The proposal is being added to a bill on state parks and is being considered during the current legislative session, which ends in a few weeks.
Picon Punch is the drink that is most closely associated with Basques in the United States. It’s a concoction that includes grenadine, club soda, a bit of brandy, and Amer Picon, a bittersweet aperitif made in France with herbs and a peel of orange. For a good mixture, see the recipe at the website for the North American Basque Organizations, which represents Basque clubs in the United States and Canada.
The drink is featured at such restaurants as Louis’ Basque Corner in Reno and the Star Hotel in Elko. The drink’s origins are not entirely clear, but the cocktail appears to have first been mixed by Basque immigrants who came to West, the vast majority of whom roamed the Great Basin with their flocks of sheep. Picon Punch is the subject of a lengthy 2009 feature article “How the West was drunk,” in The Atlantic, which uses the cocktail as a narrative thread to look at the history of Basques in the West.
Nevada’s Basque restaurants are among the most popular ethnic restaurants in the state. For detailed information on Basque restaurants in Nevada and elsewhere, see Euskal Kazeta’s restaurant page.