We founded Top Note in 2017 as a cocktail syrup company, with our first release being a gentian-forward bitter orange syrup inspired by non-alcoholic aperitivi like Crodino and chinotto. Fast forward to 2021, Top Note has transitioned from syrups to mixers, and as we've set out to debut our premier Bartender Release Sparkling Mixer, the stakes are higher than ever. We thought: what better way to honor our journey than to go back to our roots and give a nod to the original cocktail syrup that helped get us to where we are today?
Top Note's new series of yearly Bartender Release Sparkling Mixers will draw inspiration from contemporary trends in the cocktail and spirit-free drinks industries. We conceptualized Gentiana as our 2021 release as a way of honoring our origin story as well as the growing popularity of aperitivo-style cocktails in the U.S. These bitter yet refreshing cocktails instill in us a sense of worldly wonder. They conjure images of Italy: of warm hospitality and incredible food. Gentiana is the color of heirloom tomatoes nestled amongst fresh mozzarella and basil, of terracotta rooftops and perfect Mediterranean sunsets.
Made to sip and savor, give your patrons a taste of Europe this summer with Top Note Gentiana.
A: Gentiana is the first gentian root tonic produced in the United States in modern history. Its extra-bitter, low-sugar profile draws inspiration from Italian bitter herbal sodas (called aperitivi analcolici) popular in Europe.
Q: What’s the deal with bitter sodas, anyway?
A: Until now, a true gentian root-bittered tonic water or soda has not been released in the United States since the late 19th century. But before the rise of the kinds of sugary soft drinks most Americans are familiar with today, botanical sodas like birch beer, sarsaparilla and regional cult favorite Moxie were all the rage.
In Italy, bitter herbal sodas continued to thrive alongside the midcentury boom of American-style soft drinks that favored sweeter profiles over bitter ones. For decades, these sodas could only be found stateside at traditional Italian grocers and boutique European markets, but the rise in popularity of Aperitivo Hour in the U.S. has once again propelled these sodas back into the limelight.
Q: What is Aperitivo Hour?
A: In short: pre-meal drinks. Basically an Italian happy hour.
The tradition began with the Romans, who enjoyed plentiful drinks, snacks and socializing before more formal meals. Today, the practice remains largely the same and can take place before any meal - typically lunch or dinner.
Perhaps what sets Aperitivo Hour most noticeably apart from what we’ve come to know as happy hour in the U.S. is in the drinks served and the pace at which they’re consumed. Many of us are familiar with the concept of happy hour as pre-meal drinks and snacks - just like Aperitivo Hour - but often we market the occasion as a sort of race to the finish line, ie. how many cheap, high-ABV mixed drinks can we manage to sell before full-price dinner service begins?
Aperitivo Hour drinks, on the other hand, are typically low- and no-proof. Vermouth, bitter liqueurs like Aperol and Campari, and bitter sodas like Gentiana are the stars, often lengthened with tonic water, club soda, or Prossecco. These drinks are sipped and savored and the goal isn’t to get your patrons as drunk as possible as quickly as possible, but instead to provide them the time and space to catch up with friends and family, facilitate good conversation, and slow down. This allows patrons to extend their bar tabs during what might otherwise be slower sales hours and affords you the opportunity to showcase cost-effective no- and low-proof drinks.
Q: How can I best enjoy Top Note Gentiana?
A: In the spirit of Aperitivo Hour, we recommend that your patrons sip Gentiana slowly and among friends.
It’s common to find Italian’s enjoying bitter sodas like Gentiana chilled, served neat, and garnished with an orange wedge and green olive. If you prefer to serve a taller drink, Gentiana is fantastic over ice with a splash of orange juice or lemonade. For a low-ABV spritz-style cocktail, mix with sweet vermouth or Prossecco.
For more information on Top Note Sparkling Mixers, head to our Industry Home Page, curated just for bars, restaurants, cafes and distributors.
Find our collection of Gentiana cocktail and zero-proof recipes here.