Peychaud’s is a bright-red bitters sold in 5 oz (150 ml) bottles whose ingredients include gentian root.
It is used as a flavouring in cocktails.
It is sweeter than Angostura Bitters.
It is made in Louisiana, USA and is very hard to find outside of the state.
The Peychaud family were French from Bordeaux, France. They went to live in Saint Dominique (the western part of Hispanola Island, now known as Haiti, and not to be confused with Santo Domingo, the city on the eastern part of the island.) They were slave owners, who got caught up in revolts as slaves sought their freedom.
Inspired by the French Revolution which began back in France in 1789, an educated black leader arose named Toussaint “L’Ouverture” Breda. A freed slave, he felt, understandably, that perhaps the “Rights of Man” philosophy being much ballyhooed in France should apply to all men, including those currently enslaved. From 1791 to about 1803, the slaves of what is now Haiti were variously declared free and then unfree, depending on who was saying what and still had their head back in tumultuous Paris. Napoleon settled things by first offering Toussaint safe conduct, then betraying him and tossing him into prison in 1803 where Toussaint died on 17 April 1803. Then, six months later, Napoleon decided he was so fed up with Haiti that he gave it its independence, at the same time as he sold Louisiana to America. Ironically, Toussaint hadn’t been seeking a total break with France, just freedom for blacks.
During this period of great unrest, with riots and battles with French troops occuring from 1791 to 1803, it was unsafe for French or white people in general people to be about on the island. The Peychaud family left either in 1795 or 1799, depending on the source you read. The family including a young daughter named Lasthenie returned to France, but a young son named Antoine Amedée Peychaud, who had been born in France, got left behind. He was safe nevertheless because a former slave raised him.
By 1811, Antoine was in New Orleans. He was married there on 5 March 1811 to a Célestine Cruzat (died 4 July 1854.) Antoine had enough experience to qualify at the time as a pharmacist, and opened a pharmacy called “Pharmacie Peychaud”, at 437 Royal Street in the French quarter. With him from Haiti he had brought a bitters formula, which in 1830 he began making for sale. This was the start of Peychaud’s Bitters.
Antoine became known for something else as well, though. A mason, he would whip up for his fellow masons a strong drink that he’d learned back in Santo Domingo, made from a mix of cognac, marc, sugar and various spices. He served the drink in a “cocquetier”, a small egg cup. He soon started selling the drink to customers. Some people feel that pronounced in a southern English accent, “cocquetier” would easily transform itself into “cock-tiay”, ergo “cocktail”. Given that his was a mixed drink, and that we’ll probably never know for sure where the word “cocktail” might have come from, this seems to be about as good a hypothesis as any for the word’s origin.
For many years, Antoine’s family didn’t know what had happened to him. Finally a French captain who traded between New Orleans and France, who knew Antoine Peychaud in New Orleans and his sister Lasthenie Peychaud in France, thought they might be related based on the names and stories, and got them into touch with each other. Lasthenie came to New Orleans to meet Antoine. One of Antoine’s friends was a Charles A. de Maurian, who was a Judge at the City Court. He went with Antoine to meet Lasthenie at the ship; Charles and Lasthenie ended up falling in love and getting married. Sadly, however, she died in 1838 shortly after the birth of their child. The child, Antoine’s nephew, Charles Amedée de Maurian (born 21 May 1838 – died 2 December 1912) ended up becoming a famous American chess player living in Paris.
The rights to the Peychaud Bitters were bought out by a Thomas H. Handy in 1870 or in the 1870s.