Best Bitters

Healers and Tipplers-
Bitters from the past and the present.

During the 1800’s immigrants came to the New World from far off lands. Some of these early settlers brought their primitive methods of healing with them in the form of root teas, bitters, tonics and elixirs. Root teas were already well established for healing from the Native Americans who lived in the New World and they taught the immigrants methods of healing, some of which still exist today.

Bitters are powerfully concentrated forms of herbal healing that date back to the dawn of man. They are still used for ailments that range from stomach disorders to the healing of circulatory systems in the body. Bitters also have a secondary purpose. Not only do they have medicinal purposes but their bitter flavor and concentrated aromatics that just happen to be delicious in cocktails.

Antique Peychaud Postcard
It’s pretty well established that bitters have been used in the cocktail arts since Antoine Amédée Peychaud created his namesake bitters in the earliest concoctions that evolved into our modern day cocktails.

Peychaud’s Bitters were originally created to stave off dysentery and other debilitating afflictions of the digestive tract. Please remember that during the mid 1800’s, refrigeration and good sanitary practices were all but unknown so the use of bitters in healing was not just a trend, they were absolutely necessary!

Some of the oldest brands are still used today like Peychaud’s Aromatic Bitters. Indispensible in cocktails like the Sazerac, Peychaud’s distinctively red color seems to signify strength and power over illnesses of the belly. Angostura Bitters an equally venerable brand was also originally formulated to be effective for afflictions of the digestive tract. Angostura was invented by Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert, a German doctor in the mid 1800’s, for use in curing stomach disorders. Tropical temperatures were not conducive for the preservation of food thus stomach ailments were prevalent during this pre-electricity period. Bitters such as Angostura and Peychaud’s, although still in use today in the concoction of cocktails, are rarely used for their original purpose. But if you have a hangover or a stomach ache there are scarcely any non-medicinal products available on the market today that work as effectively without synthetically produced, chemical ingredients.

 

Mixing cocktails with bitters

 

The craft cocktail explosion in recent years has given creative mixologists and ardent cocktail enthusiasts the opportunity to introduce concentrated herbal and fruit driven flavors to their cocktails. But many modern day bartenders and mixologists may not be aware of the rich history of bitters. For both Classic Cocktails and the newer versions of the classics, bitters are a thing of the past in a very modern context. The original bitters developers in Sweden, France and Germany would scarcely have imagined the direction that the cocktail industry has taken towards flavor driven augmentations. What we have now in the cocktail world are creative mixologists unleashing flavor combinations that evoke the past, and through this past we have the present.

Today’s Cocktail and Speakeasy bars will have dozens of bitters on hand. Their purpose is to add an element of surprise– to unlock a secret only known to flavor. That is what high end drinking is all about. And the quality of your bitters are as important as the syrups, juices, tonics and liquors.

If you are thinking of opening a bottle of tonic water you should try Q-Tonic or perhaps some Fever Tree Tonic. I’m inclined to mix some Tomr’s Tonic or maybe some Jack Rudy with either Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water or Polar Sparkling Water.

The thoughts of bitter and sweet in a mixed drink acts like a metaphor for life itself. Bitters are not just for stomach aches any longer!

Here is a list of the best bitters that are available today:

 

Angostura- 
The venerable Angostura Bitters is not only for healing the stomach, but it’s also gorgeous in a drink known simply as the Pink Gin. Just a few drops of Angostura Bitters in a cupful of gin will administer great healing!
Peychaud’s Bitters-
The modern uses of Peychaud’s Bitters are not so far from the original uses, in the cocktail still known today as the Sazerac.
The Bitter Truth-
From Germany, made with concentrated flavors that evoke fruits, herbs and spices. The name says it all!
Bittermens-
Produced by hand, these bitters are created to add new dimensions to mixed drinks.
Bitter End-
Decidedly antagonistic bitters for the most fevered dreams you can imagine. With bitters like Thai, Moroccan, Mexican Mole, Jamaican Jerk, Curry, Chesapeake Bay and Memphis Barbecue, these flavors are not for the meek. They shout, no, they scream in ancient languages not yet discovered. Their flavors exploit the fearful and reward the fearless. A mere drop of the Curry Bitters in a gin and tonic will take the drinker down the steamy path to a crocodile infested swamp. Someplace where the mosquitoes grow larger than your fist and your sunburned flesh is on the menu as the chef’s special of the day. Curry is a favored ingredient to cool the body. The turmeric element is a powerful curative against all forms of malaise. And the brooding alcohol level of Bitter End Bitters teaches us that all is not what it seems. Watch out for the Curry. They will pitch you over the edge if you’re not careful.
Bittered Sling-
is an uncommon name for a most profoundly concentrated and friendly spirit augmentation from one of my favorite places on the globe, Vancouver, BC. And the owners are really cool too.
Bittercube Bitters-
are aromatic and potent. Their Vanilla Bark is marvelous in a rum punch and the Bolivar Bitters unlock long gone spirits and bring flavor right into the present tense.
Bitters, Old Men-
There are over a dozen concentrated bitters from this Brooklyn based bitters alchemist. With flavors like Smoke Gets in your Bitters and Krangostura, an aromatic bitters befitting Krang, the villainous anthropomorphic brain from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, these are not your grandmom’s bitters for healing a cold.
Fee Brothers-
The venerable brand from New York State is just about the most historic brand on the market aside from Angostura and Peychaud’s. Recently the brand has branched out from the simply ravishing Whiskey Barrel Bitters to the aromatic and beguiling Cranberry Bitters along with their perennial favorites like Mint, West Indian Orange, Grapefruit and Celery.
Dale DeGroff’s Pimento-
is a lush, aromatic and deeply sensual bitter from cocktail master, Dale DeGroff and Jade Alchemist Ted Breaux. This is not the typical “sock in the mouth” version of the spicy pimento, but a deeply layered experience that includes Caribbean spices, anise and aromatic healing herbs.
Dram Bitters-
from Colorado are an apothecary lesson in each sip. They use aromatics like the other bitters on the market, yet take a devilish turn towards traditional ingredients such as chamomile, long known for restorative and healing elements.
Dr. Adam Elmegirab-
The bluntly talented bitters manufacturer produces historically correct versions of bitters such as the Teapot Bitters and the luscious Boker’s Bitters.
Scrappy’s Bitters-
makes a Chocolate Bitters that approaches otherworldly amongst other pure and concentrated flavors.
AZ Bitters Lab-
Lush and pure with concentrated flavors gathered from ingredients including exotic Mexican chocolate and sumptuous orange peels. My favorite in iced tea (with bourbon) is the Mexican Mole bitters!
Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6-
Citrus flavors mesh beautifully with brown liquors and white (clear) liquors. They add spark and an edge to a mixed drink. Woven with Asian spices, this hearty reminder of pre-prohibition cocktailian pleasures gives depth and a crisp sense of purity to many different types of mixed drinks. What is not said about bitters on the label may well be the most important of all. They are good for you! Originally bitters were used as powerful healing for all sorts of ailments from the digestive tract to general malaise. These are the hidden pleasures of bitters. If you have a bellyache, try adding about five splashes of Regan’s Orange Bitters to a glass of seltzer water, drink it down and then repeat after an hour or so. I think you will find your breath refreshed and your stomach calmed.
Basement Bitters-
From the Tuthilltown Distillery in Gardiner, upstate New York, these bitters offer a slightly different approach to the creation of the typical cocktail bitters. The reworked recipe includes, rye whiskey, herbs, spices and maple syrup. These bitters are not your typical cocktail augmentation, but ones that offer a deeper and more concise trip into the darker side of a cocktail. They allow the drinker to find hidden meaning in every sip. The maple syrup is a favored ingredient in Minetta Tavern’s Maple Syrup Sazerac. This new classic cocktail based on the traditional Sazerac has the addition of a richly textured maple syrup in the mix of rye whiskey and absinthe. Basement Bitters have harnessed the maple syrup component in their sharply delineated bitters. A hit of sarsaparilla adds a perfect counterpoint to the sweetness of the maple. These are thirst-slaking bitters that are absolutely at home in a mixture of brown liquor and sweet vermouth. Or they may be enjoyed simply in a glass of seltzer water with a peel of citrus.
Hella Bitter-
from Brooklyn, NY is a crisp reminder that all in bitters are not the same. First of all the name is different than others on the market. They call the bitters Hella Bitter, offering “complexity and depth” to a drink. I see it very much the same way being a former cook. The world of Hella Bitter is a very familiar place in my life of harnessing flavor. The name is also different. Bitter not Bitters. I love the way the Hella Aromatic Bitter perks up a rum punch, or perhaps the citrus bitter in a very twisted drink with botanical gin as the primary intoxicant. Hella is about to shake up your palate, so make sure you bring an open mind to the bar.
Fernet-Branca-
Known as “bitter liquor”, is especially helpful when trying to vanquish a hangover or after a filling meal. It is also the ingredient in cocktails that adds depth and balance. The herbs and spices give great potency and balance to a number of cocktail experimentations. Personally speaking, I enjoy Fernet-Branca in a Rum and Coke. Other times Fernet-Branca is delicious with seltzer water and a pinwheel of lime as a powerful curative for what ails you. A couple drops in a Bloody Mary, for example, acts with as much intensity as a few drops of Angostura Bitters.

 

http://www.thefiftybest.com/cocktails/best_bitters/

Five Cocktails for a party!

I love cocktail parties. Especially ones that give me the opportunity to take my guest’s palates to another level.    This little cocktail party served notice that great mixed drinks don’t have Fireball or Tito’s in them.  Far from.  They take great parts and incredible craft spirits and bring these liquid driven adventures truly to a higher place.

I was given a bottle of Martinique Blue Cane Rhum Agricole recently and I couldn’t think of a nicer way to serve it than with Royal Rose- Simple Syrup of Cardamom and Clove and a bit of seltzer water.

Just over on Mt. Pelee’

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz. Clement Bleue Canne Rhum Agricole (100 Proof)
  • 1 oz. Royal Rose Simple Syrup of Cardamom and Clove
  • 2 oz. Seltzer
  • 2-5 drops Lemon Bitters (of your choice)

Prep:

To a cocktail mixing glass filled ¾ with ice

  • Add the Rhum Agricole
  • Add the Simple Syrup
  • Stir well to combine
  • Pour into a Collins Glass with ice
  • Top with the Seltzer
  • Dribble the bitters over the top and serve

The second cocktail took a simple drink known as the gin and tonic and quite literally, raised the bar with thirty different types of gin.  The crowd favorite?  A little gin in a gorgeous bottle from Scotland named Caorunn.  For some reason (well known to those of us who love artisanal gin) the Caorunn has a richer texture and ‘ginny’ character that worked so well with the multitude of tonic waters that I brought with me.  Amongst the gins were The Botanist, SW4, No.3., Martin Miller’s Pot Still, Hat Trick, FEW, Nolet, Beefeater, and many others.


 Not Just Another Gin and Tonic

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz. Gin of your choice (Caorunn was the crowd favorite)
  • Lemon Zest (no pith!)
  • 5 oz. Cane Sugar Tonic Water- the crowd favorite was Fever Tree Elderflower Tonic (Bed, Bath and Beyond)
  • Aromatic Bitters – like Angostura, often used in a “pink gin”

Prep:

  • Flavor the glass with the lemon zest then the Angostura Bitters
  • Add ice
  • Add the Gin
  • Top with the Tonic
  • Stir and Serve

I’m sure that the third drink is where you want to get going- and that would mean immediately!

The Soda and Cocktail Syrup named Fruitations is where this drink really takes off.  I used the brilliant Tangerine syrup and combined it with Mezcal and then finished it off with a Cane Sugar Ginger Beer from Australia named Bundaberg.  Brilliant stuff.  A wedge of fresh lime and lemon bitters sent this drink further than it has ever been prior.  Trust me.

Just up Near Mexico City

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Mezcal of your choice
  • Orange Zest
  • 1 oz. Fruitations Soda and Cocktail Syrup (Tangerine)
  • Splash Ginger Beer
  • Aromatic or Lemon Bitters

 

Prep:

  • Moisten the inside of a rocks glass with the orange zest
  • Add ice
  • Let cool
  • In a Boston Shaker add:
  • The Fruitations Syrup
  • The Mezcal
  • Cap and Shake hard to combine
  • Double Strain over the ice filled rocks glass
  • Splash of Ginger Beer
  • Dot with Lemon Bitters
  • Spray the lime wedge over the top
  • Serve with a smile

The next drink was my own take on the classic Old Fashioned, and it departs from the classic in one very determined way.  I chose to roast several different kinds of oranges in a bath of both Balsamic vinegar and Demerara sugar until caramelized and bubby- about 2.5 hours at 350 degrees covered.  The final ½ hour is uncovered to add a bit of darkness to the softly cooked fruits.  I then roasted some Luxardo cherries until warmed through and quite soft- about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  Set to cool so you won’t break your expensive crystal with sizzling hot fruit, pricy whiskey and ice!

 

Not your typical Old Fashioned

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons or so of the oven roasted citrus and cherries
  • 2 oz. Barrell Bourbon Whiskey- I used unreleased batch #012
  • bitters of your choice

Prep:

  • Muddle the roasted fruit
  • Add the whiskey
  • Stir gently
  • Dot with bitters
  • Serve

The final drink was the easiest to duplicate because once you are able to buy a good quality Absinthe, you’ll be more than ½ way there.  Any of the fine Absinthes made by Jade would work beautifully, as would the Lucid line.  There is one thing that I must stress.  The lack of color is far preferable to the ones with color added.  It’s just my preference.

 Just a Normal Louche

Ingredients:

  • Jade Absinthe
  • Drizzle of iced water
  • Great Conversation

Prep:

Release the chilled water from your Absinthe fountain slowly and gently into 2 oz. of Absinthe, sip and repeat until sated

Sweet And Savory: 3 Original Craft Cocktails To Make With Bitters

They cure what ails you.

bitters
Photo by Adam Jaime via Unsplash

Craft cocktails have made incredible leaps and bounds over the past dozen or so years. Nothing is more in evidence than the augmentations, such as bitters, shrubs, syrups, tonics, cola, and even flowers — each variety and flavor designed specifically for the craft cocktail bar.

Visit your neighborhood mixology bar; they are popping up all over like microbrew bars did about ten years ago. You can tell a mixology bar by a couple of things. Look over at the bar. Should you see little medicine droppers on tiny bottles lined up in a row, you’re probably in the right place. Look further, do you see liquors on the shelf that you don’t recognize? Getting warmer, you are. What about that over there? It looks like they refrigerate their Vermouth (if they don’t, throw it out!). And the ice, wow, such large cubes and crystal clear.

(OK, please don’t get hung up on clear ice, not everyone gets ice and are ice-nerds, but I digress.)

Read More: https://thefreshtoast.com/culture/sweet-and-savory-3-original-craft-cocktails-to-make-with-bitters/

 

The Mezzrole Recipe!

https://bevvy.co/cocktail/mezzrole/luhy

I’m a huge fan of Manhattan-style cocktails; they make great aperitifs. This one is named after Milton “Mezz” Mezzrow, a jazz musician who lived in Harlem in the 1920s. And, as Mezz himself would have known, the term for a well-rolled cannabis cigarette was a “mezzrole”—so I just had to commemorate both man and medicine in this elegant cocktail. It combines cannabis-infused sweet vermouth, handmade cocktail cherries, and quality bourbon into a small, but well-formed, libation that’s deeply healing.

Mezzrole_Cocktail_blog_title

When you’re infusing your vermouth, consider choosing a Sativa-Indica hybrid strain called Cherry Pie. It’s redolent of sweet and sour cherries, and it complements the toasty, oaky flavors inherent in the liquors. As for making crushed ice, it’s best to place the ice in a Lewis bag—a heavy canvas bag that’s made for the job—before whacking it with a wooden mallet or rolling pin.

This recipe calls for Greenish Cocktail Cherries.

  • 4-6 Greenish Cocktail Cherries
  •  0.5 oz (15 ml) cannabis-infused vermouth, such as Uncouth Vermouth’s Seasonal Wildflower Blend
  •  Handful of crushed ice
  • 1 oz (30 ml) bourbon whiskey
  •  Aromatic bitters
PREPARATION
  1. Muddle the Greenish Cocktail Cherries with a wooden muddler or the handle of a wooden spoon, then top with the vermouth.
  2. Continue to muddle for 30 seconds to combine the flavors.
  3. Cover with the crushed ice.
  4. Top with the bourbon, then dot with aromatic bitters.
  5. Don’t have two; one should be more than enough.

The Dramatis Personae

The Dramatis Personae is my Cocktail Whisperer’s riff on the Vieux Carré, the classic New Orleans cocktail. My version calls for belly-friendly Creole bitters, and uses Calvados, or apple brandy, in place of cognac. Sound like an unusual cast of characters? It gets better. Enter a spritz of Infused Absinthe, stage right.

Finish the Dramatis Personae by pouring a little Infused Absinthe into an atomizer or spray bottle, and topping the drink with just a whiff of the medicated spirit. When you’re infusing your absinthe, try an Indica strain like Mr. Nice. It’s earthy and sweet, with pungent aromatics that enhance the aniseed and herbal notes in the absinthe.

Text reprinted with permission, c/o Fair Winds Press, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group.

  • Marijuana smoke, to flavor
  • Ice
  • 0.5 oz (15 ml) rye whiskey
  • 0.5 oz (15 ml) sweet vermouth
  • 0.25 oz Calvados
  • 3-4 dashes Creole-style bitters
  • 2-3 dashes aromatic bitters
  • Spritz of infused absinthe
PREPARATION
  1. Before you fill your mixing glass with ice, turn it upside down and burn some cannabis under it in order to fill it with smoke.
  2. Turn it right side up, and immediately fill it three-quarters full with ice (now you’ve made smoked ice!).
  3. Add all the other ingredients except the absinthe, and stir fifty times.
  4. Strain into a pre-chilled glass, and finish with a spritz of Infused Absinthe.

     Dramatis Personae.
    Dramatis Personae.

https://bevvy.co/cocktail/dramatis-personae/muhy

Bitters & Shrub Syrup Cocktails Reviewed, By Warren Bobrow, The Cocktail Whisperer

Whenever Warren Bobrow says he’s publishing a new cocktail book, I get excited, very, very excited. Warren speaks my health & kitchen language- apothecary, homeopathic, restorative, small-batch… Words I live by and the ingredients I create with.

garden-eats-bitters-shrub-syrup-cocktails-warren-bobrow-author garden-eats-warren-bobrow-bitters-shrub-syrup-cocktails

His latest, Bitters & Shrub Syrup Cocktails was created in the spirit of medicinally-themed drinks, and to my personal delight, features mocktails throughout- I make use of mocktails both when entertaining and prescriptively in private practice with patients. The “Theodore Allen” mocktail, Bobrow’s nod to the notorious NYC saloon owner of the 1800’s {not to be mistaken with Theodore Allen, the activist} still conjures a boozy palette sensation thanks to the combination of the sweet and acrid roots fennel, parsnip and carrot, but makes for a socially acceptable, before 11 am drink because, well, it is in fact, sans alcohol!

True to his common theme of improving on the past, Warren’s new collection reaffirms that…

“the essential components in drinks haven’t changed too much over the centuries. Bitters are still made by steeping flower essences, roots, and spices in liquor. Acerbic, botanical-rich digestifs like Underberg still improve digestion after a sumptuous meal. And shrubs are still simple, flavorful combinations of fruit, sugar and vinegar- just like they were centuries ago.”

If at the bar you request spicy, herby, bitter, citrusy or even sweet, Bobrow’s newest collection is on board with your flavor faves. If you’re new to shrubs and bitters, yes, they can literally taste bitter, but really offer far greater sensory depth- think sweet, aromatic or astringent, crisp and spicy, sometimes woody, smoky and earthy- they will never bore, they are not forgettable flavors, they make you want more, many, many more drinks!

Shrubs are especially easy to get hooked on, or at least they have always been a favorite of mine considering I love anything with a hint of vinegar. As Warren expertly explains, they’re darn easy to prepare, simply requiring a hint of patience on your part at home.

Warren’s suggestion that his libations are medicinal? They are. It isn’t just that Warren mixed healthy ingredients together then touted their medicinal virtues- he has quite the solid sensibility of what ingredients accentuate one another therapeutically and how they might quell your indigestion, lighten your mood or nourish your blood. Yes, beverages containing alcohol can ameliorate your ills and assist in improving the bioavailability of nutrient-rich ingredients. Even Warren’s gastrique recipes are healthy.

Speaking of gastriques- they can invigorate the blood, completely improve the medicinal effects of cuisine and are quite divine. Completely uncomplicated, gastriques require few ingredients, are easy to master… I tried the Lapsang Souchong Gastrique with Scotch and turmeric soaked white fish and the Sazerac Gastrique to marinate Maytag blue cheese and crushed hazelnuts. The first surprised, it was a total flavor experiment combining Lapsang Souchang with turmeric and the second was satisfying in a fulfilling-a-sweet-craving sort of way!

As a concoctor-experimenter-health-driven food lover-creator, I appreciate that there really are always new recipes and adapted methods I’ve not yet tried and come to adopt. For the bar or kitchen novice, Warren’s books, especially Bitters & Shrub Syrup Cocktails are pouring with stories and anecdotes that help build cocktail-making confidence. There is not an ounce of pretentiousness throughout Warren’s pages, only recipes that give you more reason to invite friends over, throw parties or up your behind-the-bar game.

I’ve been drinking the “Celery Nectarine Fizz” and “Shall We Talk of Business, Madam?” two tangy & spicy libations that call for shrubs. My current favorite is however “Chances In The Fog”, a simple gin-based cocktail that conjures old-world taste and of course, calls for a shrub!

Chances In The Fog

What You’ll Need

  • 2 oz London dry gin
  • 1 oz Heirloom Tomato, Pear and Sage Shrub  {grab Warren’s book for the shrub recipe}
  • 1/2 oz seltzer
  • 3 dashes aromatic bitters

Method

Fill a cocktail glass three-quarters full with ice. Add gin and shrub. Use a long cocktail spoon to stir for 30 strokes. Use a hawthorne strainer to strain the mixture into a coupe. Top with aromatic bitters and seltzer.

Want to score a copy of Warren’s new book? You’re in luck, we’re giving one away! Enter to win by following us and Warren on Instagram and leave a hashtag on my post #Warrenbobrow. We’ll randomly choose a winner in two weeks.

In NorCal this weekend? Go meet Warren, get a book signed and give him a hug from me. You can see him speaking at UC Berkeley on the 21st of June in the Botanical Garden and atOmnivore Books the day before.

Warren is published by the wonderful folks at Fair Winds of the Quarto Publishing Group.

ASHEVILLE COCKTAIL WEEK!!

Do please join me!

https://mountainx.com/food/high-spirits-a-guide-to-asheville-cocktail-week/

May 1-8  Best Bloody Mary Contest takes place at participating Asheville bars and restaurants

Wednesday, May 4 Cocktail Theatre with Rob Floyd

Thursday, May 5  Spirit Dinner at Rhubarb with Warren Bobrow and John Fleer, Cinco de Mayo tasting and bar crawl with Hornitos tequila at The Imperial Life

Friday, May 6  Book signing with Warren Bobrow at Malaprop’s, Southeastern Distilling Expo at the S&W Building (service industry only; free of charge), Industry seminars at the S&W (service industry only; free of charge), Fourth annual ELIXIR bar competition at the S&W

Saturday, May 7 Hangover Brunch at The Imperial Life with Cathead Vodka, Cocktail tours with Eating Asheville, Kentucky Derby Party at the Smoky Park Supper Club’s Boat House, with Maker’s Mark, Old Fashioned Nightcap with Knob Creek on the rooftop of the Social Lounge

Sunday, May 8 Best Bloody Mary Contest results released online

All events require either tickets or an RSVP. For ticketing, schedule details and more information, visit ashevillewineandfood.com.