Swiss Alpenbitter: A Traditional Herbal Liqueur

appenzeller alpenbitter

Alpenbitter, a well-known Swiss herbal liqueur from the Appenzell and Luzern regions of Switzerland, recently came to my attention in several ways. So I had to finally try it…

First, I saw Appenzeller Alpenbitter mentioned via Newly Swissed. A former bartender that worked in the Bernese Oberland wrote that Swiss customers decided whether they liked someone based on their facial expression after taking a shot of this 58-proof beverage. This description made it seem like a litmus test for determining if you are truly Swiss! Then I started seeing bottles of it on my Instagram feed. This included fan photos of it among the Swiss Alps, at Ayers Rock in Australia and even as an ingredient in homemade soap. Finally, I checked what I consider to be the ultimate source for determining a Swiss food — the inventory of traditional products from Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse. And, yes — Alpenbitter appears on the list.

After hearing me talk about it, my husband brought home a few mini-bottles for me to taste. I emptied a bottle into a glass filled with ice. Then, I slowly sipped this strong drink while doing some background reading to learn more…

Switzerland’s Alpenbitter

Alpenbitter generally refers to a dark liqueur seasoned with herbs with an alcohol content of about 30 percent. In Switzerland, you will find different types and brands of Alpenbitter, such as Luzerner Alpenbitter or Glarner Alpenbitter. Appenzeller Alpenbitter is arguably the most famous, with Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse reporting that it’s sometimes referred to as the Swiss national drink. My very informal poll of a few Swiss friends — both from the French and German-speaking sides of Switzerland — made this beverage seem less popular, however. Although, all had heard of it and most had tried it at least once.

According to the company that makes Appenzeller Alpenbitter, only two people know the secret blend of 42 herbs used in its preparation. The beverage was first developed by Emil Ebneter back in 1902. At that time, doctors claimed it offered some medical benefits. I have heard it described as having a medicinal taste, and I somewhat agree.

Drinking and Cooking with Alpenbitter

To be honest, I have never tried Jägermeister, but there are comparisons made between this German digestif and Alpenbitter. Alpenbitter is also used as a digestif, but one producer told Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse that it’s more commonly consumed as an apéritif in Western or French-speaking Switzerland. From my experience, I have never seen, nor have been I offered any kind of Alpenbitter during my nearly four years in Western Switzerland. Until this week…

For me, Appenzeller Alpenbitter has a strong anise scent and taste, mixed with other herbal flavors that I cannot put a name to. I had it on the rocks, but would not enjoy drinking it warm and straight. The Appenzeller website has several other drink suggestions that look interesting. They also have some sweet and savory recipes.

What’s your opinion of Alpenbitter? Do you have a bottle at home? If so, how often do you drink it? Please leave a comment below or send me an email. Many thanks!

Updated: December 29, 2022

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24 replies »

    • Hello bc, Thanks for sharing your question. I checked in with Appenzeller Alpenbitter here in Switzerland, and they said they cannot sell this product in the US because one of the ingredients is not allowed. Sorry!

    • Alpenbitter is made in Canada by Forty Creek Distillery located in Grimsby, Ontario. I do not know how it compares with Appenzeller Alpenbitter but I will ask the next time I visit the distillery.

      • Hello Bob! Thank you very much for sharing this. Curious to hear what you find out! Many thanks, and best wishes, -Heddi

      • Nice! I still need to visit this distillery. Hopefully in 2021!? Best wishes from Switzerland, -Heddi

    • I got mine at the duty free shop at the airport in Zurich. There is another product from the “Chech Republic that has 14 herbs. JAGERMEISTER has 54 herbs. A chilled shot after dinner is good for you !

  1. What a great website! Your format is similar to mine-with links and no advertising. Its a refreshing change from all the other sites that do have ads. Thanks for the great info!

  2. I buy or receive a bottle of Appenzeller every year when I travel to Switzerland. Never used it in cooking. the taste is heavily Liquorish. Whenever i have a bit of a funny tummy I drink a little over ice or just as is and I feel better right away. Also use it occasionally as an aperitif. Will try to find an outlet for it in eastern Canada since travelling to Europe is not recommended at this time.

    • Hi Susanne! I hope you can find it in Canada!! I have always wanted to visit the distillery in Appenzell, but still haven’t been there yet. I like this drink with ice. I’m curious to try cooking with it! Best wishes, and thanks for your nice message. -Heddi

    • Hello again Susanne! No, I haven’t ever tried this in a recipe. Good question! Perhaps for a future article… Many thanks, and best wishes, -Heddi

      • I am hoping to find some to use as a rub for homemade Appenzeller cheese. I just read a comment by someone who suggested buying this liqueur instead of trying to make my own rub by guessing the herbs and ingredients in the “secret magic mix”. Has anyone ever tried that?

  3. Hi Heddi. Do you know the famous phrase that comes along with this Appenzeller Alpenbiter ? Something like ..What the world will be without Apenzeller Alpenbiter …correct me if I am wrong

    • Hi Tony! Thanks for your great question. I’m not familiar with this phrase (?), but I will see what I can find out for you.

    • Hi again Tony, I heard back from Appenzeller Alpenbitter. They shared an advertising image with me that has the slogan, “Imagine our world without Appenzeller – without the land and people!” So, you were right! 🙂 Thanks again for the great question.

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