Jump to content

Bitters With Life


plunk
 Share

Recommended Posts

I buy Fee Brother bitters from Surfas
I see on the Surfas website that in addition to the orange bitters, they have Fee Brothers lemon, peach, aromatic, and mint bitters as well. I've only had the orange from Fee Brothers. Have you tried the others? How do the "aromatic" bitters compare to Angostura? I see also that Fee Brothers produce a grenadine. Is it appreciably better, I wonder, than Rose's, which wouldn't be difficult?
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I see on the Surfas website that in addition to the orange bitters, they have Fee Brothers lemon, peach, aromatic, and mint bitters as well. I've only had the orange from Fee Brothers. Have you tried the others? How do the "aromatic" bitters compare to Angostura? I see also that Fee Brothers produce a grenadine. Is it appreciably better, I wonder, than Rose's, which wouldn't be difficult?
I have all of their bitters. Jake is right the Aromatic is amazing, and much better than Angostura. I have not opened the mint bitters yet, but am smitten with the peach bitters. I like them in a martini as a change from the orange bitters.

If you want a good Grenadine buy it from Sonoma Syrups. Shockingly they actually make theirs out of Pomegranate. Also I would recommend their Almond Syrup when you need Orgeat Syrup.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I should expand. The Fee Bros. aromatic is great for champagne cocktails (my champagne cocktail-based drink of the moment incorporates a drizzle of chartreuse vert and lemon bitters, as well). Angostura is nice for rye-based manhattans when less bittering is necessary.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Gee guys, thanks for all the information. It looks like Surfas will be getting an order from me pronto. I see they also carry the Sonoma Syrups grenadine. Jake, your champagne cocktail sounds very interesting. Does the Chartreuse provide all the sweetness, or do you include a sugar-cube as well? I've made some lovely ones with a little Cointreau, a little cognac, and orange bitters, and no other sugar.

As to Regan's orange bitters at Calvert Woodley: If you're not terribly familiar with the organization of the store, you might have a hard time finding the bitters, since they're on the wrong side of the cash registers, all the way at the front of the store on the right as you face Connecticut Ave.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Still a sugar cube. It's still a champagne cocktail, after all.
The best champagne cocktail I have ever had was at Pegu this weekend. Nathan, the fine gentleman tending the bar, commented that he hated using sugar cubes so he made it with simple syrup. One of the things I do not like about most Champange cocktails is that because the sugar cube does not disolve all the way, they tend to be cloyingly sweet at the bottom of the glass.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

In days gone by bitters were made in wide variety for medicinal purposes. A couple dashes added to tea, water, or liquor was prescribed for stomach ailments, diarrhea, and the like. The British may be the first to have invented the categories of "cocktail" with the addition of bitters to gin to make "pink gin" for soldier's abroad. Again, the medicinal qualities being the mother of invention here. The flavor was not the motivating factor in these concoctions so much as their healing and restorative qualities. Often roots and herbs known for being medicinal were mixed with citrus peel and other fruits to disguise the bitter flavors that could be produced. Angastora bark (which, as irony would dictate,is not in Angastora bitters), snakeroot, cardamom seed,and quinine were all well known as aids to digestion or appetite enhancers and, all are very bitter.

Of course it took an American to improve the flavor to the point of drinkability. The sazurac cocktail, the first written instance of adding bitters to liquor to produce a favorable flavor profile, is the first cocktail published in Jerry Thomas' bartenders guide. As modern medicine produced pills, shots and tinctures to replace the snake oil, tonics and bitters of the folk healers, the roll of bitters has changed. Now used almost exclusively for enhancing the flavor of drinks, some more modern brands have abandoned traditional recipes in favor of creating a more universally accepted product. As we all well know, that's just not acceptable to a Rockwellian. Authenticity over mass appeal!

So, after much research on the subject, I've set out to make my own bitters. Using a blend of herbs meant to excite the palate, enhance appetite, and aid in digestion. And, I did consult with a Chinese herbalist, so expect it to improve erectile functions also. Stay tuned for more. :o

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In days gone by bitters were made in wide variety for medicinal purposes. A couple dashes added to tea, water, or liquor was prescribed for stomach ailments, diarrhea, and the like. The British may be the first to have invented the categories of "cocktail" with the addition of bitters to gin to make "pink gin" for soldier's abroad. Again, the medicinal qualities being the mother of invention here. The flavor was not the motivating factor in these concoctions so much as their healing and restorative qualities. Often roots and herbs known for being medicinal were mixed with citrus peel and other fruits to disguise the bitter flavors that could be produced. Angastora bark (which, as irony would dictate,is not in Angastora bitters), snakeroot, cardamom seed,and quinine were all well known as aids to digestion or appetite enhancers and, all are very bitter.

Of course it took an American to improve the flavor to the point of drinkability. The sazurac cocktail, the first written instance of adding bitters to liquor to produce a favorable flavor profile, is the first cocktail published in Jerry Thomas' bartenders guide. As modern medicine produced pills, shots and tinctures to replace the snake oil, tonics and bitters of the folk healers, the roll of bitters has changed. Now used almost exclusively for enhancing the flavor of drinks, some more modern brands have abandoned traditional recipes in favor of creating a more universally accepted product. As we all well know, that's just not acceptable to a Rockwellian. Authenticity over mass appeal!

So, after much research on the subject, I've set out to make my own bitters. Using a blend of herbs meant to excite the palate, enhance appetite, and aid in digestion. And, I did consult with a Chinese herbalist, so expect it to improve erectile functions also. Stay tuned for more. :o

Thank You, Tom. I always wondered about the whole "Bitters" thing, since a bottle of Angostura was ALWAYS present in my parents' house for as long as I can remember. Why, my Goodness, we have a bottle on the shelf our ownselves. Glad to know that there are some better alternatives. (I mean: I know where the silver cocktail shaker is, and I know where to buy some decent booze, and I have a husband who took a Bartending course. I may never be completely sober again.)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My Surfas order arrived yesterday. I ordered aromatic, peach, and lemon bitters and the Sonoma Syrups grenadine. The lemon bitters are back-ordered, and I haven't opened the peach yet, but I've tried the aromatic bitters and oh my they're lovely. I really like Angostura bitters, but these are just on a whole nother level. I made a traditional "pink gin", which is just gin and bitters, stirred with ice, strained into cocktail glass. With Angostura, this drink is actually more or less pink; not so with Fee bros., which turn the drink a kind of golden color. But the depth, the complexity, the nuance! Just utterly ravishing. Thanks to all for the recommendation. I mixed the grenadine with something or other and made a not very good cocktail (I think it was just lemon juice, gin, and grenadine, which probably has a name). Any suggestions for good cocktails with grenadine? I could certainly tell that this stuff is miles above Rose's. I think I'll probably throw my bottle of Rose's grenadine in the trash.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How about a tequila sunrise?
Not strictly speaking a cocktail. That aside, I don't believe I've ever tried that drink (although I certainly lived through its era of greatest popularity). But tequila, orange juice, and grenadine doesn't sound like something I would find congenial. I found this "Skipper Cocktail" on Cocktaildb:
Shake in iced cocktail shaker & strain

1 oz gin (3 cl, 1/4 gills)

3/4 oz maraschino liqueur (2 cl, 3/16 gills)

1/2 oz fresh lemon juice (1.5 cl, 1/8 gills)

1/4 oz grenadine (6 dashes, 1/16 gills)

Serve in a cocktail glass (4.5 oz)

That sounds pretty good, although I think I'd reduce the maraschino to 1/2 ounce and raise the gin to 1 1/2.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

That sounds pretty good, although I think I'd reduce the maraschino to 1/2 ounce and raise the gin to 1 1/2.
Then you would have an Aviation with Grenadine, it certainly appeals to me. Last night I made a variation on Satan's Whiskers that had a 1/4 shot of Grenadine in it. It was quite flavorful.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My Surfas order arrived yesterday. I ordered aromatic, peach, and lemon bitters and the Sonoma Syrups grenadine. The lemon bitters are back-ordered, and I haven't opened the peach yet, but I've tried the aromatic bitters and oh my they're lovely. I really like Angostura bitters, but these are just on a whole nother level. I made a traditional "pink gin", which is just gin and bitters, stirred with ice, strained into cocktail glass. With Angostura, this drink is actually more or less pink; not so with Fee bros., which turn the drink a kind of golden color. But the depth, the complexity, the nuance! Just utterly ravishing. Thanks to all for the recommendation. I mixed the grenadine with something or other and made a not very good cocktail (I think it was just lemon juice, gin, and grenadine, which probably has a name). Any suggestions for good cocktails with grenadine? I could certainly tell that this stuff is miles above Rose's. I think I'll probably throw my bottle of Rose's grenadine in the trash.
have you ever made your own grenadine? it's among the easiest things to make in the spirits world and is so wonderful fresh.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Then you would have an Aviation with Grenadine, it certainly appeals to me. Last night I made a variation on Satan's Whiskers that had a 1/4 shot of Grenadine in it. It was quite flavorful.
The formulas I can find for the Aviation are all over the place. Gary Regan's recipe calls for 1/2 oz lemon juice, 1/2 oz maraschino, and 2 oz gin, which is about how I usually make it. But the recipe on cocktaildb has 1 oz lemon juice, 2 oz gin, and 2 dashes of maraschino, which I think is the same as in the Savoy Cocktail Book. So my take on the Skipper Cocktail would be an Aviation with grenadine in the former but not the latter formula. In either case, though, the addition of grenadine fundamentally alters the nature of the cocktail. At any rate, I made this last night and it was very nice indeed. To keep it on topic, I should have added some bitters. Oh, and drinkboy's Aviation is 2 oz gin, 1/2 oz maraschino, and 1/4 oz lemon juice.

According to cocktaildb, Satan's Whiskers is made with equal measures of sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, gin, orange juice, and Grand Marnier, with a dash of orange bitters. That already is an awful lot of ingredients. Did you add grenadine to this, or perhaps replace the sweet vermouth with it?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

According to cocktaildb, Satan's Whiskers is made with equal measures of sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, gin, orange juice, and Grand Marnier, with a dash of orange bitters. That already is an awful lot of ingredients. Did you add grenadine to this, or perhaps replace the sweet vermouth with it?
I prefer Regan's Aviation recipe as well. As for Satan's Whiskers I do not decrease any of the amounts, but do double the gin. The grenadine is added sparingly (two dashes).
Link to comment
Share on other sites

FWIW. While consolidating booze collections, I happened to compare a current bottle (approx 6 mo old) of Campari with a very slightly less recent one (prob 2 years old) and noticed that not only had the bottles and labels changed, but the older bottle ("Campari" molded into the shoulder, imported by Skyy Imports) says that it's colored with natural carmine, while the newer one (smooth glass, CampariUSA URL on back label) says it contains artificial color. Same UPC. Have they been tinkering with the formula?

(eta: thanks to teh Google, I see that I'm not the only one to have noticed this)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

...("Campari" molded into the shoulder, imported by Skyy Imports) says that it's colored with natural carmine, while the newer one (smooth glass, CampariUSA URL on back label) says it contains artificial color. Same UPC. Have they been tinkering with the formula?

To answer my own question: possibly not. It turns out that under FDA's arcane rules, carmine and cochineal may be labeled as "artificial color", even though both are natural extracts manufactured from the cochineal beetle. FDA's proposed rule to require specific identification of those colorants would not take effect until January 2008. So...that "artificial color" probably IS carmine, which some people are allergic to.

Presumably, next year the labels will say something like "carmine (animal-based)", thanks to years of lobbying from CSPI.

One more data point: Canadian-market bottles of Campari use the new packaging, but their back label still lists carmine.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Note to self, when reducing the must from a bitter concoction steeped in grain alcohol

1) Remember said mixture contains a great deal of residual alcohol

2) DO NOT LET SAID MIXTURE BOIL OVER FOR ANY REASON

3) If rule #2 is somehow forgotten and the mixture should boil over DO NOT QUICKLY REMOVE FROM STOVE TOP!!!

The sauce pan splashed flaming must on the stove top(already on fire), the floor in front of the stove(catching my pant leg on fire), the front of the stove, and of course the sink.

4) replace kitchen fire extinguisher if the previous 3 rules are not followed, it will be empty. :(

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Your dedication will not be a sacrifice. It will be an exhilarating experience because it is an intense effort applied toward a meaningful end. -- Thomas Dooley

As for the flaming pant leg...

The pain of making the necessary sacrifices always hurts more than you think it's going to. I know. It sucks. That being said, doing something seriously creative is one of the most amazing experiences one can have, in this or any other lifetime. If you can pull it off, it's worth it. Even if you don't end up pulling it off, you'll learn many incredible, magical, valuable things. It's NOT doing it when you know you full well you HAD the opportunity- that hurts FAR more than any failure. -- Hugh Macleod

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I finally got tired of trying to find Angostura Orange bitters, so I ordered from Kegworks. I figured as long as I was paying the shipping, I might as well get the lemon and grapefruit to round out the citrus group. Then I thought the peach might work well with passionfruit in a rum concoction. (All these are the Fee's). I'm breathing in the aroma of the Angostura orange right now as a post-lunch aromatherapy boost. The bottle is a little warm from the ride on the mail truck, and the contents smell fantastic. Now I need to pull out all those Tiki recipes I never tried because I was un-embittered. Other suggestions are welcome.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would point out that you can get all of the Fee's bitters from Ace now, including their rhubarb bitters (mmmm) and the new Aztec Chocolate bitters.

Not to mention, of course, the Regan's #6 orange bitters, which are a bit more herb-y than orange but still quite good.

The Bitterman mole and celery bitters are out, but I don't know if Ace is getting those - I'd planned on just ordering some from NYC after I get back from Korea.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

While in Seattle tried Scrappy's Bitters. The Batch #27 of the chocolate are fantastic. They also have rhubarb, lavender, grapefruit, orange and lime. Lime is pretty rare since it's hard to keep the aromatics in, but Scrappy's are fair. The key is to get the right batch numbers, as he continues to improve upon the bitters. Not cheap at around $22/bottle at Delaurenti's, but you can also grab them at Cocktail Kingdom.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

While in Seattle tried Scrappy's Bitters. The Batch #27 of the chocolate are fantastic. They also have rhubarb, lavender, grapefruit, orange and lime. Lime is pretty rare since it's hard to keep the aromatics in, but Scrappy's are fair. The key is to get the right batch numbers, as he continues to improve upon the bitters. Not cheap at around $22/bottle at Delaurenti's, but you can also grab them at Cocktail Kingdom.

I am so excited about trying those!

:(:):lol:

(Especially the lime.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I need to point out something because I've gotten several messages about it!

I did not make the Cocktail Kingdom wormwood bitters.

What's even funnier is they don't know how the mistake was made or who did make them. At least, last I talked to them.

FUN!

By the way, Joe: have you gotten in the Bittermen's Grapefruit & Hops bitters?

EDIT: OH WAIT those are just the Grapefruit bitters. Nevermind! :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I recently purchased Brad Thomas Parson's excellent book, Bitters. I used the recipes in this book to make aromatic, grapefruit, and charred cedar bitters. So far, the aromatic bitters are the first that I've bottled and DAMN they're good in a Manhattan or even just in soda water. Less clove and more citrus than, say, Angostura. The grapefruit and charred cedar bitters will be bottled tomorrow.

So - my question is - does anyone have any good ideas for culinary uses of bitters? There are a few recipes in Parson's book and the one that seems the most obvious is using bitters in a vinaigrette. I've often heard of people folding bitters into whipped cream for desserts. Any other good ideas?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was lucky enough to get this set of 12 bottles of Fee Bros bitters as a Christmas gift this year since I'm starting to explore making good quality cocktails and now I need recipes to use them! I purchased my first cocktail book, Tony Abu-Ganim's The Modern Mixologist thanks to some recs on this board and was actually surprised to see how few of the included recipes use any type of bitters (like the book though!).

So please share a favorite cocktail recipe or two that uses a flavored bitter. Doesn't have to be one in my set, but the 12 bottle set includes: West Indies Orange, Peach, Lemon, Grapefruit, Mint, Cherry, Aztec Chocolate, Celery, Rhubarb, Cranberry, Plum and the regular “Old Fashioned” bitters.

I've used the orange quite a bit in the past and made my own cocktail 2 nights ago using the cherry, but so far that's it. More drinking is certainly in order. All in the name of experimentation of course. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My partner made me a drink recently that featured the Aztec Chocolate bitters that was very good. While I think it featured sherry as one of the main liquors, it was a bit like a slightly spicy, chocolately manhattan. If I can find the recipe from him, I'll post it--I'd definitely try it again.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Trident uses the peach bitters. The recipe calls for 2 dashes, but I think it's too much. Apparently peach bitters and sherry are a classic combo. One day, I'll spend a day in the Library of Congress and find a spirits-based peach bitters recipe.

Fees Bros bitters are generally non-alcoholic, so you can use them for mocktails, too.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...