A new golden age for bitters
August 1, 2007 8:45 AM   Subscribe

Bitters. This sharp-flavored, slightly medicinal liqueur, originally used as an aperitif, remains one of the defining ingredients in many classic cocktails, including the Manhattan, the Pink Gin, the Champagne Cocktail, and the Sazerac. Some popular herbal liqueurs, such as Campari and Jägermeister, are essentially just big bottles of bitters. But bitters had fallen on hard times, with most bars stocking only one brand, Angostura, or, if they were particularly sophisticated (or Southern), a second option, Peychaud's. Orange bitters, once an essential ingredient in the Martini, were forgotten and impossible to purchase. Times have changed, with companies such as Fee Brothers, Regan's, the Bitter Truth, and even Angostura, releasing their own versions of the orange stuff. In fact, bitters in enjoying something of a renaissance, with bars experimenting with making their own. Hobbyists, in the meanwhile, are reviving lost recipes.
posted by Astro Zombie (74 comments total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
This is a great post. I never thought about how similar Campari or Jager are to bitters. I wonder if you could make a good Manhattan with Campari?
posted by solipsophistocracy at 8:51 AM on August 1, 2007

Also, bitters with ice-cream is surprisingly fantastic.
posted by isopraxis at 8:55 AM on August 1, 2007

Very interesting. I have always been curious as to what bitters tastes like, but have feared it would be too, you know, bitter to taste straight up.
posted by danny boy at 8:57 AM on August 1, 2007

Recently heard that alcohol consumption in the US has been pretty flat for the past few years but the amount being spent on alcohol is going up. The assumption is that Americans are (generally) buying higher quality booze. (yes I know more money =! better quality always, but it is likely it does indicate a trend towards). I'd see this orange bitters renaissance as part of that general trend.
posted by edgeways at 9:04 AM on August 1, 2007

For NYC MeFites interested in drinks with bitters, try the Pegu Club on Houston and W'Bway. Fantastic hand crafted cocktails!
posted by digiFramph at 9:05 AM on August 1, 2007

Biting into a slice of lime or lemon with bitters also cures hiccups. Thanks for this post.
posted by phaedon at 9:06 AM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

This is an interesting perspective in that bitters has remained quite popular in Australia. Lemon, lime and bitters is the "grown-up" drink you're allowed to have as a kid (also sold premixed in bottles).

Unless of course you were at a barbie and the grown ups were drunk enough to allow you to have a shandy.

Lemon, lime and bitters is also a common pub drink - nothing more refreshing to have on a stinking hot day before the real boozing starts.

gomichild has never understood why Australians have such a reputation for being drinkers.
posted by gomichild at 9:07 AM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

My favorite bitters-containing cocktail is the Old Fashioned--I like mine with scotch or rye. Indeed, Angostura has been my only choice so far, but, hey, maybe I'll branch out if others become available.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:08 AM on August 1, 2007

Last week on 'Fine Living Network' there was a rerun of T'he Thirsty Travel' episode, Bitters: The World's Best Kept Secret.

Interesting tidbits regarding Angostura:
"Trinidad has produced Angostura bitters for more than 200 years and the recipe is one of the best-kept secrets in history. Legend has it that only five living men know the actual formula, but here are a few things that are common knowledge about the potent potable and its home country:
Sugar and Gentian are the only two acknowledged ingredients in Angostura bitters.

It is the single most widely distributed bar item in the world.

Angostura Distillery is the second largest distillery in the Caribbean after Bacardi, and distributes to 140 countries."
posted by ericb at 9:11 AM on August 1, 2007

"Hey intern, get me a Campari." "On the rocks?"
posted by ninjew at 9:12 AM on August 1, 2007

Bitters and soda is an old bartender's cure for an upset stomach. Use it like Alka Seltzer.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:14 AM on August 1, 2007

Amari (and Amaretti)... how to list them all? You certainly can't leave out the Fernet Branca classics. My favourite semi-amaro is Punt-e-Mes.
I was once cured of a fever for several hours after drinking an artisanal peperoncino-fernet.
posted by progosk at 9:26 AM on August 1, 2007

Bitters & Ice Cream? That's so crazy it just might work.

I've got a big bottle of Peychaud at home left over from when the Sauzerac craze failed to sweep my house. (Yeah it's good, but the Martini and Manhattan render all other cocktails extraneous.) This could be the prefect thing, kinda like the Italian method of putting esspresso on Vanilla Ice Cream.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:27 AM on August 1, 2007

Liquor aside, bitters goes very well with fruit, seeming to potentiate fruit flavors.
posted by BlueMetal at 9:32 AM on August 1, 2007

The Myth of Fernet Branca via grow-a-brain's heavy drinking
posted by hortense at 9:37 AM on August 1, 2007

Great post Astro Zombie. Most outstanding.

My dad has had a small paper-wrapped bottle of bitters in his liquor cabinet for as long as I can remember. He doesn't drink anymore and hasn't had a bottle of booze in that cabinet for years, but that bottle of bitters remains. It may be fossilized by now.

It's nothing for me - like all good fellows I drink my whiskey clear - but it's nice to see the Old Fashioned making a comeback.
posted by three blind mice at 9:38 AM on August 1, 2007

Fantastic post. Now I need to figure out how to use 5 gallons of bitters before I make a batch.
posted by TungstenChef at 9:44 AM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

That's a ditto on the bitters/lime hiccup cure, by the way.
posted by redsparkler at 9:46 AM on August 1, 2007

*pours bitters on the ground for MiguelCardoso*
posted by bigschmoove at 9:47 AM on August 1, 2007

See also Make Your Own Bitters and A Basic Bitters Recipe.

Nice post.
posted by spock at 9:55 AM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

When I was on vacation with the family at around the age of 12, we went to Door County, Wisconsin for the summer. We took a day trip out to Washington Island, where, with a shot of Angostura, my father and I along with a good family friend, became members of the Washington Island Bitters Club.
posted by chillmost at 9:56 AM on August 1, 2007

Produced and Bottled by Angostora Bitters.
posted by adamvasco at 10:05 AM on August 1, 2007

Wait- a drink recipe with Jager and Benedictine?! Holy schneikes, this I gotta try!!!

Bitters is good stuff- as noted above, it's good by itself with something simple; me, I love to have my glass of water with a slash of bitters and a lemon wedge; it's like ginger ale without the fizz, but not quite, and soothes a tumultuous stomach.
posted by hincandenza at 10:05 AM on August 1, 2007

My other semi-bitter story: anyone remember those countless little ads (in the New Yorker) with people (including, unforgettably for me, the Plasmatics' blue-mohawked Richie Stotts) quipping clever little one-liners "I drink Jägermeister because...."?
My dad did those. I thought they were pretty cool.
posted by progosk at 10:08 AM on August 1, 2007

Peychaud's is wonderful with all sorts of non-alcoholic drinks as well. Hard to imagine a fruit juice that wouldn't benefit from a little sophisticated note.
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 10:12 AM on August 1, 2007

Great post. We go through a lot of Campari here at the gingerbeer household! Haven't tried making our own yet.

Here's an SF Chronicle article talking about bars here making their own bitters. They are also apparently making their own tonic water.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:13 AM on August 1, 2007

Now I need to figure out how to use 5 gallons of bitters
That's about 25 bottles of Unicum. If I haven't been through that yet it's only because it's expensive, not because I don't know what to do with it.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:21 AM on August 1, 2007

And the clock ticks out like a dripping faucet
til you're full of rag water and bitters and blue ruin
And you spill out over the side to anyone who will listen...
And I've seen it all, I've seen it all
Through the yellow windows of the evening train...

One of my favorite Tom Waits "songs"
posted by Arch_Stanton at 10:57 AM on August 1, 2007

I've only recently discovered the joy of bitters (and of Manhattans). I struggled over whether to purchase the Angostura or Fee's and went with the former. Good to know that bitters aren't mutually exclusive!
posted by aladfar at 10:59 AM on August 1, 2007

I love me a good Manhattan, but nothing breaks my heart more than when ordering one, the bartender inevitably fails to include bitters. I usually have to ask for it specifically, at which point the bartender will spend several minutes looking for it, then, when finding the familiar paper-wrapped bottle, will shrug and ask "is this it?" Then the follow-up is, "how much should I add?" Just a dash, sweetheart, not too much. I've all but given up at ordering a Manhattan when out, and make them only at home.

On another tangent, Stirrings makes a fantastic blood orange bitters. It's generally not too hard to find in specialty liquor stores, and goes great with tequila and OJ.
posted by slogger at 11:00 AM on August 1, 2007

When I was 'stateside I could find angostura bitters at any hole-in-the-wall liquor store but I've searched high and low (liquor stores, specialty deli's, &c) and haven't been able to find it.

Anyone know where I can buy some in Vancouver?

Seconding bitters for upset stomaches; you know those sour-belly hangovers from drinking too much cheap beer? Dash of bitters in a little soda water goes a long way.
posted by porpoise at 11:17 AM on August 1, 2007

Great post and comments!

San Pellegrino makes a drink called Chinotto, which is made from the bitter-orangish fruit of the same name. Kind of a "bitters soft drink".
posted by mkultra at 11:43 AM on August 1, 2007

I wonder if you could make a good Manhattan with Campari?

Absolutely! I'd recommend a liquor that has a little more roundness to it - perhaps a bourbon? I like it with Bulleit. You may also pull back on the vermouth.

A popular Manhattan variant in my household is the Applejack Manhattan. This is prepared with a healthy measure of sweet vermouth, Laird's Applejack, and a couple dashes of the aforementioned Gary Regan's no 6 Orange Bitters. At times, my wife craves them.

I second your lament, slogger - too many times, I've been disappointed by what arrives when I order a Manhattan. If there are two rules (and there may be three, if you feel strongly about rye as critical to the concoction), they are that:

1. I should be asked if I would like it up, and
2. It should include bitters.

As a related story, when I was studying the craft of the cocktail in New Orleans, I once visited a friend of my mentor in NYC (Manhattan, natch). We met at his bar, and ordered a couple of drinks before heading out to explore the various establishments the city has to offer. I ordered a Manhattan, in celebration of the occasion, and he ordered a sidecar. A few sips in, he asked me how my Manhattan was. Reluctantly (I was still a novice), I informed him that the drink didn't have bitters in it, and I preferred mine prepared with a surplus thereof. He was horrified, and excused himself for an immediate corrective interview with the guilty bartender. The bartender in question, I'm told, swore it was a mistake, but the mishap launched us on a mission. At every bar we visited, we would order a Manhattan, to see how it was prepared.

The result? 9-3 in favor of bitters. There's hope, slogger. There is hope.
posted by rush at 11:46 AM on August 1, 2007 [2 favorites]

it's nice to see the Old Fashioned making a comeback

It is. Mostly, in my opinion, because it means that more bartenders known how to make it today than even a year ago. It is astonishing to me how often they fuck it up (and yet, I'd keep trying). Fruit juice? Simple syrup from a bottle? No, no, goddamn it, no.
posted by solid-one-love at 11:48 AM on August 1, 2007

In my household bitters are indispensable - both for regular hard cocktails and, probably more often, for soft drinks. A few shakes of Angostura in a glass of 7up on ice? The most refreshing and delicious drink ever. I am surprised 7up doesn't market it pre-mixed.

Remember to fill the glass halfway with the pop, add the bitters and then top off. If you put in the bitters first you get a glass of lovely rust colored foam, if you put the bitters at the end you have to stir, and that's a drag.

Also delightful is a dash of Peychaud's, a little smooch of grenadine, cracked ice and seltzer. MM!!

(great post!)
posted by dirtdirt at 11:49 AM on August 1, 2007

Anyone know where I can buy some in Vancouver?

Any half-decent grocery store. I'd be surprised if your local Safeway didn't have it; I bought my last bottle at a Thrifty's in Victoria. I usually find it in the "weird drink" section near the Rose's Lime Cordial or the "weird bottled sauces" section near the Worcestershire.
posted by solid-one-love at 11:57 AM on August 1, 2007

porpoise, why not just order it online? I recommend the four-pack, if you're a fan. Cheaper that way.
posted by rush at 11:57 AM on August 1, 2007

You're not really a bitters fanatic unless you have a membership at Nelsen's Bitters Pub on Washington Island, WI. Selling bitters to members was a way to get around the Prohibition. Nothing fancy here, just a shot of Angostura, but set & setting is everything.
posted by memexikon at 12:07 PM on August 1, 2007

porpoise, why not just order it online?

Not being in the continguous 48 states, he couldn't get it delivered.
posted by solid-one-love at 12:24 PM on August 1, 2007

Good god I'm thirsty. If I were home now, I'd have me some of the grapefuit juice/Campari/fizzy water concoction we make up. I'd even add a dash of the orange bitters we have...

::::takes unsatisfying sip of unbittered fizzy water::::
posted by rtha at 12:27 PM on August 1, 2007

San Pellegrino makes a drink called Chinotto

mkultra, San Pellegrino makes a travesty of the only true chinotto: the Chin8 Neri.
posted by progosk at 12:30 PM on August 1, 2007

On the ice cream thread - I went to Italy on an exchange from Birmingham England when I was fourteen (about 1970). Among many culture shocks I suffered (the weather, the girls, the food, the girls, the wine, the girls, the clothes, did I mention the girls?), was when at our first meal in a posh restauraunt in Milan, our host ordered me a vanilla ice cream and tipped about three fingers of Johnny Walker Black label over it.

I've taken my ice cream like that ever since,
posted by surfdad at 12:33 PM on August 1, 2007

Porpise - I second Solid-one-loves advice, both Safeway and Save on stock them, I'd suspect Stupidstore does too.
posted by Keith Talent at 12:37 PM on August 1, 2007

I wonder if you could make a good Manhattan with Campari?

Absolutely! I'd recommend a liquor that has a little more roundness to it - perhaps a bourbon? I like it with Bulleit. You may also pull back on the vermouth.

I was actually suggesting that the Campari be used in lieu of bitters, with respect to the claim that Campari is basically a giant bottle of bitters.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 12:37 PM on August 1, 2007

Chinotto galleries, sightings, cheat sheet (english), in-depth, fansites. Yeah, it's that good.
posted by progosk at 12:44 PM on August 1, 2007

calling klangklangston to thread. (for his own good.)

Also, I was initiated to the ritual of the "digestivo corretivo" at the Abbe del San Galgano outside of Sienna, where, in the gift shop they had what amounted to Everclear steeped for months? years? in "1000 herbs" (at least that was what the label attested to). The nun who sold it scolded me that I was not to drink it straight, which I assented to, but as she spoke no English and I only minimal Italian, I hardly felt that this was a promise to God.

After that mind-clearing experience, I also enjoyed a Barolo Grappa and a Brunello Grappa.

I swear by the digestive corrective.

On the flight home to the states, the flight attendants were liberal with the libations, but I noticed that the Italian nonnos were drinking something that looked like prune juice but smelled like licorice lighter fluid. I asked the nonna & nonno next to me--their reply "Fernet-Branca, but you are American, you won't like."

I do wish that I had never tasted it because it is damn nigh impossible to get in Michigan for a reasonable price.
posted by beelzbubba at 12:52 PM on August 1, 2007

Alright, I've been meaning to try a real Manhattan for a long time now. This thread threw me over the edge, and I'm going shopping.

Can anyone give me a recipe including preferred brands of booze?
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:04 PM on August 1, 2007

On the ice cream thread - I went to Italy on an exchange from Birmingham England when I was fourteen (about 1970). Among many culture shocks I suffered (the weather, the girls, the food, the girls, the wine, the girls, the clothes, did I mention the girls?), was when at our first meal in a posh restauraunt in Milan, our host ordered me a vanilla ice cream and tipped about three fingers of Johnny Walker Black label over it.

I've taken my ice cream like that ever since

Me, too. Only, hold the ice cream.
posted by beelzbubba at 1:15 PM on August 1, 2007

Can anyone give me a recipe including preferred brands of booze?

Every evening -- for as long as I can remember -- my parents have Manhattans before dinner.

Their recipe:
3 oz Maker's Mark Bourbon

1½ oz Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth.*

2 dashes Angostura.


Pour over crushed ice -- or, ice cubes.

Add a Maraschino cherry.
*(For a dry version use dry vermouth).
posted by ericb at 1:23 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Fantastic post Astro!
The Time Picayune is running a feature about local drinks and a few weeks ago featured the Sazerac (the article also plugs the gumbopages.com link you posted).
I'd been meaning to try one since reading that but now you've gone and pushed me over the edge. I live just down the street from the Fairmont Hotel and it's a shame that I can't have a drink at the Sazerac Bar. Maybe now that they're looking at selling the Fairmont, the new owners will reopen the bar.
posted by djeo at 1:24 PM on August 1, 2007

TimeS Picayune of course. Q: How many times do I have to proof a post before I catch all the mistakes? A: One more than the last time.
posted by djeo at 1:26 PM on August 1, 2007

Thanks ericb!
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:31 PM on August 1, 2007

BTW -- my parents' preference (and mine) is to stir the combined liquid and pour it directly into a cocktail glass filled with ice. Others prefer adding the liquids to a Boston Shaker that is filled with crushed ice; shaking it for a bit then straining the contents into a chilled Martini glass.
posted by ericb at 1:48 PM on August 1, 2007

I use ericb's recipe for Manhattans, too - brands and all, though I usually stick to 2oz bourbon, 1oz vermouth.

Currently I've got a little experiment going on - I've got about a pound of fresh bing cherries soaking in a jar full of Luxardo Maraschino liqueur in my 'fridge. I tried one the other day - they're getting there, but I think perhaps another few weeks are needed. I may not need those super sweet candy red "maraschino cherries" anymore!
posted by dnash at 2:02 PM on August 1, 2007

Huh, thanks guys - I'll take another look after work (and after picking up a bottle of Makers and another of vermouth)!
posted by porpoise at 2:13 PM on August 1, 2007

Way back in the early nineties, my brother met a lovely British girl while living in Czechy. They were married in Lancashire in 1994. Their Czech friends showed-up for the wedding in a van filled with one keg of homemade beer and bottles of two different kinds of homemade herbal liquer.

There were no survivors.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:19 PM on August 1, 2007 [2 favorites]

Excellent post!

Nice one! Great comments too.

Bitters, good for the gall bladder and liver.
posted by nickyskye at 2:27 PM on August 1, 2007

I believe I read you correctly, solipsophistocracy, yet represented myself poorly. I was, in fact, advocating the use of Campari, in lieu of bitters. I've done it numerous times, and was throwing out some suggestions on how you might fine tune it to adjust for the slightly burnt flavor of the Campari (use more than you would bitters), namely, using a round-flavored Bourbon (to prevent clashing with the Campari) and backing off on the vermouth (so as not to overpower the nice aromatic effect, either). I think I confused the matter by adding in the Applejack Manhattan recipe, but I couldn't help it - they're so good.

I third ericb's recipe. Though, with Maker's, I'd go with Peychaud's. It's just a tad bit sweeter.

posted by rush at 2:27 PM on August 1, 2007

dnash, those sound fantastic! I've done them with brandy and mint leaves before, but the Maraschino liqueur sounds like a great plan. I think I may have to flatter you this weekend.
posted by rush at 2:31 PM on August 1, 2007

When I was in Rome recently, every cafe served Campari and soda with a lemon wedge. They call it their "national cocktail". I heartilly recommend!
posted by Cataline at 4:23 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

They call it their "national cocktail".

Damn those Italians and their gorgeous, heavenly country overflowing with good food and drink! It's just not fair to the rest of the world!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:39 PM on August 1, 2007

Also, bitters with ice-cream is surprisingly fantastic.

I had to come home and try this, and Lordy, it is quite tasty.
posted by jquinby at 7:09 PM on August 1, 2007

If you can find it, Vya's sweet vermouth makes the best Manhattan I've ever had. Follow DrinkBoy's recipe with Basil Hayden's and you can't go wrong.

I can also recommend the Orange Bitters and Old Fashion Bitters from Fee Brothers.
posted by (parenthetic me) at 8:28 PM on August 1, 2007

On a whim, I bought a bottle of bitters a few weeks ago and started experimenting with making drinks with it. So far I've been surprised and delighted, so I'm glad to hear that they're making a well-deserved comeback.

Also glad to see I'm not the only one who thought of Miguel on reading this post.
posted by moss at 9:01 PM on August 1, 2007

The Manhattan I've been using lately:

2 jiggers Michter's rye
1/2 jigger Noilly Prat sweet vermouth
1/2 jigger Cinzano sweet vermouth
dash Fee Bros orange bitters

Vermouth contains a lot of the same things that bitters and other aperitifs do - namely bitter almond (benzaldehyde), cinnamon, cloves, mace, bitter orange, and so on. Whatever is in Angostura bitters, though, is too strong for me. One dash of Angostura bitters makes the drink taste like Angostura bitters, which sort of spoils the enjoyment of the other ingredients.

I still can't find anyone in SF to sell me a bottle of the Fee Bros. mint bitters. I've just about screwed up my courage to go into Absinthe and swipe a bottle.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:58 AM on August 2, 2007

If you can get orange bitters (we use Fee's) in addition to the Angostura, WinnipegDragon, they make a nice addition to a rye Manhattan. We usually make them by pouring a few drops into each glass and swirling until the inside is coated, pouring off the excess.

The rest of the drink is standard (2 oz. rye -- we like Rittenhouse, which is a great buy but may or may not be available where you are -- 1 oz. sweet vermouth and a few dashes of Angostura) is shaken with ice in a cocktail shaker, or stirred in a big pyrex measuring cup with a chopstick, if I'm too lazy to get the shaker out.

Just as vital as the bitters -- a big garnish of lemon rind, rubbed around each rim before the drink goes in.
posted by BT at 3:39 AM on August 2, 2007

(I see that ikkyu2's recipe also includes orange bitters, which I should have mentioned; I should try mixing the sweet and dry vermouths...)
posted by BT at 3:41 AM on August 2, 2007

I'll jump in here, even though I rarely partake of liquor anymore, this is the one true Manhattan in my world:

2 parts George Dickel white label Tennessee Whiskey
1 to 1/2 part Cinzano
heavy dash Peychaud's

serve over ice with an orange twist.

Mock all you want, but cherries are for those who are avoiding the taste of the whiskey, an orange twist works wonders with the Peychaud's. I'll have to find a bottle of the orange bitters and see if I can forgo the twist in the future.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:43 PM on August 2, 2007

"Those who are avoiding the taste of the whiskey" should simply buy better booze than George Dickel. I'm currently recommending J.W. Dant 100-proof with one ice cube in a small juice glass.

For that matter Campari is better unmixed on the rocks too. Those who don't like the taste of booze should stick to Ripple or suchlike, stuff that's cheap, fruity and sweet. But then 12 years olds shouldn't drink much anyway.
posted by davy at 1:05 PM on August 2, 2007

BT, I'm glad you get Rittenhouse in Brooklyn. Do you get Pikesville Rye too?
posted by davy at 1:08 PM on August 2, 2007

egads, I loves me some bitters. It was the #1 item that I used to sneak out of my parent's liquor cabinet as a kid. Coke with bitters, mmm. Better yet, coke with bitters put into the freezer and allowed to freeze into a slush. That was my summer treat.

In my desire to find new and different bitters-like beverages, I've come across a few items not mentioned yet in this thread. That they weren't mentioned may be intentional, but here goes: "If you like bitters, you may also like (or abhor)..."
posted by Pliskie at 1:24 PM on August 2, 2007

Astro Z., you have achieved stratospheric heights of awesome with this post. Thank you. And look at everyone chiming in, I love you guys!

I've all but given up at ordering a Manhattan when out, and make them only at home.

Slogger, I feel your pain. Story of my life. But don't give up!

One of the things people were adamant about at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans was that we as a drinking people must no longer be tolerant of poorly made cocktails. A bartender who doesn't know that a Manhattan contains bitters is like a chef who doesn't know how to cook an egg -- it's basic.

I try very hard not to be a jerk about it, but when I'm paying $10 for cocktails these days (or more), I'm going to be no more accepting of a crappily made one as I am of a crappy $25 entree that comes out of the kitchen.

One way I try to at least remind bartenders of this essential ingredient is to order it "with an extra dash of bitters, please," which actually works most of the time and is a lot nicer than saying "and don't the bitters, okay?"

Random thoughts:

Angostura has just released a new orange bitters, their first new bitters product in 200 years. (*happydance*)

At Tales I got a chance to taste other new bitters, including Fee Brothers' new grapefruit bitters (really good!), Jamie Boudreau's (of Vessel in Seattle) cherry bitters, also great but which are unlikely to be a commercially released product (maybe he'll share the recipe) and Jamie's substitute for the almost-lost bitter orange apéritif Amer Picon, the recipe for which is in the current issue of Imbibe magazine.

Speaking of Tales of the Cocktail, if you're at all interesed in cocktails (especially as cuisine) and spirits, their history, current states and future, then you've got to go to this event. I finally went this year, and it was stupendously fun. I also learned a LOT, and finally met Audrey "Libation Goddess" Saunders of the Pegu Club. I tried not to gush. I failed.

I'm a bit reluctant to link to my own weblog's coverage of the event, but Rick Stutz of Kaiser Penguin has been linking to lots of folks' coverage here.

Speaking of fruit, try a half a grapefruit with about eight big dashes of Angostura bitters and sprinkled with brown sugar, then broiled. Fantabulous. I worked on a cocktail version of those flavors for an entire summer, before I was marginally pleased enough to give the drink a name, and I still don't think I'm finished tinkering with it.
posted by chuq at 2:04 PM on August 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Don't forget Cynar, the unusual Italian aperitif made with artichokes!

BT, for a time I was experimenting with dry vermouth in my concoctions; half sweet, half dry is called a "Perfect" manhattan, although I've come not to agree.

With regard to cherries, I found the sweetness and bitter almond the cherries were soaked in to be cloying, so I switched to a twist; that's how I came to use orange bitters, they substitute nicely for the twist. Mind not to shake too vigorously, or the volatile oils come to the surface of the bubbles created, where they rapidly oxidize.

I find the NP sweet vermouth to be very different in character than the Cinzano; where the Cinzano is smooth, dark and mellow, the Noilly Prat has a great deal of spicy clove and cinnamon flavors that are somehow Christmas-y to me. Both types of Martini and Rossi vermouths taste frankly foul to me and I won't mix with them.

For the record, my favorite Manhattan has, instead of Michter's as stated above, 2 jiggers of Old Potrero 18th century spirit. This straight rye is aged only 2 years in non-toasted oak barrels; as a result it retains a great deal of malty sweetness and acquires no smoky flavors whatsoever and very little phenolic. The reason I don't drink it more often is that this stuff is hard to come by and 126 proof to boot, meaning that my standard double Manhattan packs nearly the equivalent of a third shot of alcohol. But if you love whisky and you can find some, I whole-heartedly recommend it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:14 PM on August 2, 2007

At Tales I got a chance to taste other new bitters, including Fee Brothers' new grapefruit bitters (really good!)...

Oh man, I gotta get some.

I'm currently drinking my favorite thing: grapefruit juice (any brand without added sweetener), fizzy water, dash of orange bitters, and a splash of Campari. I like this so much that I hardly ever have a beer after work anymore - I come home and mix up one of these.

chuq: your broiled grapefruit/bitters/brown sugar cocktail sounds fantastic. I wish I could guinea-pig it for you.
posted by rtha at 6:12 PM on August 2, 2007

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