10 Facts About Bitter des Diablerets

An herbal aperitif from the Swiss canton of Vaud, Bitter des Diablerets dates back to the late 19th century. Today, the company that makes this drink describes it as “the only national aperitif of French-speaking origin.” Want to know more? Here are 10 facts about this bittersweet beverage.

Bitter des Diablerets with mineral water, ice and a slice of lemon.

1. François Leyvraz created Bitter des Diablerets in 1876.

According to the official website for this alcoholic beverage, a Dutch traveler may have inspired the recipe developed by Mr. Leyvraz. To this day, the ingredients and process for making it remains a closely guarded secret.

2. Bitter des Diablerets has an alcohol content of 18 percent.

The most typical way to enjoy this aperitif: on its own, with ice or mixed with mineral water.

Certainly, Switzerland has a number of bitter-style drinks. Above all, the Appenzell region arguably has the most famous alpenbitter. Yet another bitter drink, the Glarner Alpenbitter, comes from the canton of Glarus.

3. Another local legend suggests a landslide led to the creation of this aperitif.

The story goes that the Devil caused a landslide, trapping the villagers of Deborence. In order to survive, they sucked on the roots of alpine herbs, which ultimately led to the creation of Bitter des Diablerets.

Les Diablerets is a village in the canton of Vaud and a wintertime ski resort. Its name comes from the French word for the devil: le diable. The Diablerets massif has some of the tallest peaks in the Vaudois Alps: Diablerets (3,209 m), Quille du Diable (2,850 m) and Oldenhorn (3,123 m). 

4. The label on the bottle lists only four ingredients.

These include alcohol, sugar, plant extracts and natural aromas. Meanwhile, Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse (Culinary Heritage of Switzerland) provides a more detailed description of its ingredients. It reports that the unique flavor of this drink comes from gentian, orange peel, mountain herbs and 15 different types of roots.

Bitter des Diablerets
An old glass jug for Bitter des Diablerets on display at the Jardin Botanique Neuchâtel.

5. A red devil once adorned its label and promotional posters.

This devil was created by painter Frédéric Rouge, a friend of Henri Leyvraz (son of the company’s founder). He was recruited to help promote the brand. His paintings, which were made into posters, depict a mischievous-looking devil clutching a bottle of Bitter des Diablerets. In addition, these paintings often have an image of a chamois, which today can be found as a relief on its glass bottles.

From June 2012 to April 2014, the Musée des Ormonts held an exhibition about the history of the Bitter des Diablerets. This exhibition featured some of these iconic posters.

6. This brown-hued drink was once marketed as having medicinal properties.

For example, posters used to describe it as an “aperitif sain” (healthy aperitif). Furthermore, other advertising materials claimed it could help soothe upset stomachs and relieve other ailments, such as headaches, insomnia and asthma. However, these statements no longer appear in the promotion of this alcoholic beverage.

7. A sweet specialty from Vaud, the Bouchon Vaudois contains Bitter des Diablerets.

Bouchon means “cork” in French — a name it earns because of its color and shape. It has a crisp, biscuit shell made with egg whites, sugar, grated almonds and flour. Inside, you will find a smooth chocolate and almond praline filling with a hint of this aperitif.

Bouchon Vaudois
Bouchons Vaudois, a sweet treat that contains Bitter des Diablerets.

8. Escher SA began producing Les Bitter des Diablerets in 1976.

A century after its creation, the family-owned company decided to give its recipe for Bitter des Diablerets to Escher SA. This company is based in Satigny, within the canton of Geneva. As a result, this beverage is no longer produced in the canton of Vaud.

9. You can make a cocktail with it known as a “Surf.”

First, you mix two parts cola with one part Bitter des Diablerets. Then, you can garnish the drink with a slice of lime or lemon. In the 1980s, the Surf apparently became a popular drink among snowboarders.

10. A new version of this aperitif, Diabolique, was created in 2016.

A reinvention of the original recipe, Diabolique has a higher alcohol content at 35 percent. Moreover, this new and stronger aperitif sees the return of the devil on its label — a modern interpretation of this mythical horned creature.


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