Why the Picon Punch is still not Nevada’s Official State Drink

Picon punch

The Picon Punch in a proper glass. The lemon in this photo is too large though since I don’t have a proper bar knife right now. Photo by Mike Higdon

Picon Punch up for Official State Drink of Nevada again at 2015 state legislature

“The first two are the Picon and the third is the punch,” said Lorraine and Louis Erreguible of Louis’ Basque Corner according to Alicia Barber’s oral history project.

The Picon Punch is a Basque cocktail made with grenadine, club soda, brandy and Amer Picon, an orange and nutty flavored liqueur (recipe below). It’s highly popular in Northern Nevada, for those people who frequent Basque restaurants or any good Nevada bar and who get peer pressured into ordering it. The Amer Picon is easy to find at any liquor store in Northern Nevada but somewhat more impossible and unheard of almost everywhere else in the country. And this year Nevada State Assemblyman David Bobzien filed a bill draft request to make the Picon Punch the Official Drink of the State of Nevada.

But this isn’t the first time someone wanted to make the Picon Punch the official drink of Nevada.

In the previous Nevada Legislative Session in 2013, the amendment to make the Picon Punch the Official Drink of the State of Nevada was added to a bill to create the Nevada State Parks and Cultural Resources Endowment Fund but was later stricken by the Nevada State Senate and passed without it. The minutes from that legislative session two years ago were pretty hilarious, showing that sometimes politics and drinking go well together. Here’s an excerpt from May 16, 2013 that illustrates the silliness of it all:

Section 1.7 states, “The traditional Basque drink known as the Picon Punch is hereby designated as the official state drink of the State of Nevada.”

Assemblyman William C. Horne, Clark County Assembly District No. 34: I appreciate your indulgence in presenting this amendment. It does not affect the bill at all. It does make the Picon Punch our state drink. Those of us who are from Nevada know the rich history of the Basques in our state. If you have not had a Picon Punch, I would say it is an experience you should try at least twice so you can experience that acquired taste and really enjoy its flavors. When people are not from Nevada, they think of the state as a desert wasteland. For those of us who are from Nevada, we know that is not true. That is like the Picon Punch; you have to experience its delightful flavors. There is a celebration tonight in making this Basque drink our state drink across the street at Bella Wines after everyone has finished their work.

With that Madam Chairwoman, I would ask you to accept this amendment in making the Picon Punch the state drink for the state of Nevada.

Assemblyman Ellison: Anyone who has spent any time in Elko, Winnemucca, Ely, Eureka, or anywhere else in the state knows about Picon Punch. I cannot drink one because it tastes like aviation fuel. I go to dinner with my friends and they can drink several.

Assemblywoman Bustamante Adams: Assemblyman Horne, I definitely appreciate the thought, but like many people who have moved to Nevada, I do not understand the history of the Basques in this state. Could you elaborate on why we would be making aviation fuel our state drink?

Assemblyman Horne: Being an honorary black Basque, I would say you do not have to be from Nevada to appreciate Nevada. Just like we have many other state icons, such as the state fossil. You do not have to be from here to adopt the state fossil, yet we have one. You do not even have to drink the Basque drink Picon Punch in order to appreciate its history in our state, which the Basques brought over from Europe, along with other delectable foods and music. This is just something else we appreciate and that makes Nevada unique to California, Utah, Idaho or Arizona. This drink specifically belongs in the Nevada archives as our state drink.

Assemblyman Oscarson: Thank you, Assemblyman Horne, for bringing interesting legislation forward. I was wondering if there was any consideration given to making this drink without any spirits or alcohol. I was also wondering if you could explain how a Picon Punch is made.

Assemblyman Horne: I would not recommend trying to make a Picon Punch without any spirits. That would be like finding a Basque who has never tried lamb chops. As for the ingredients, outside of jet fuel, I could not tell you what is in it. I have had a number of Picon Punches over the years and I have survived the experience. I intend to take my chances, yet again, this evening.

Assemblyman Daly: I tried the experience once and I may try it again. I had a similar experience as you, Assemblyman Horne. I do support the amendment because, if nothing else, it will make a great Jeopardy question under the Potent Potables category.

Chairwoman Benitez-Thompson: Just for the record, Assemblyman Horne, this is not uncommon. Other states do have a state drink. I do not know how many and I do not know what they are, but it sounds like there are other states who pay homage to their history and recognize a libation. I believe one state has Kool-Aid.

Assemblyman Horne: I did see Kool-Aid on the list of states that have a state drink. I do not think it identified which flavor of Kool-Aid. In my neighborhood growing up, Kool-Aid was a mainstay, red being a particular favorite.

Assemblywoman Swank: I just wanted to say, I have also had the Picon Punch and I like it. I further want to add that as the founder of the Flamingo Club in southern Nevada whose motto is “Building community one cocktail party at a time,” I can say we fully support this.

Assemblyman Ellison: I would be happy to provide everyone on this Committee with a Picon Punch.

After this comment, the speaker of the house broke up the conversation to focus on the rest of the bill.

Picon Punch recipe

  • 2 oz Amer Picon
  • Soda Water
  • Grenadine
  • Barspoon of brandy
  • Lemon peel

Add ice to punch glass. Layer the Amer Picon, soda (3/4 oz to 2 oz depending on preference although less is certainly better) and splash of grenadine (a barspoon is more than enough) over the ice and stir vigorously. Top with barspoon float of brandy and garnish with lemon twist.

Or listen to how the owners of Louis’ Basque Corner make theirs.

Correction Monday, Feb. 2 4:40 p.m.: First paragraph was changed to reflect the more correct joke about drinking three Picon Punches. Caption was edited to point out the lemon in the picture is too big. Recipe reduced grenadine amount to reflect more common measurements used in Basque restaurants. Thanks to Picon Punch aficionado and Pulitzer Prize Winning journalist Warren Lerude.

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Mike Higdon

Editor & Publisher at Drinkable Reno
Mike Higdon is a journalist passionate about beer and cocktails. He started the site because no one else covered Reno's growing craft scene at the level of detail required to stay in the know about all things drinkable in Reno.