Rule 37: The Trinidad Sour

Modern Drunkard Magazine’s articleThe 86 Rules of Boozing, by Frank Kelly Rich states:
Rule 37. Try one new drink each week.
The Rule 37 series of posts chronicle my attempts to accomplish this feat every week.
For the recipes of R37s past, click the Htf do I make these drinks? tab.

This one comes from one of the blogs I follow, The Savoy Stomp, in which the author chronicles his way through the Savoy Cocktail Book. The book is one of the Bibles of cocktaildom, and was written back in 1930 by famed bartender Harry Craddock, as he worked in London’s American Bar in the Savoy Hotel. Savoy Stomp attempts to recreate these Prohibition-era cocktails as written, instead of updating them for modern tastes. He had a couple variations of Angostura-based cocktails in a recent post, and I chose one that sounded tasty, The Trinidad Sour.

The recipe jumped out at me for a reason. Its primary ingredient, Angostura Bitters, was used in a proportion I had never seen before. See, bitters are like the seasonings of the cocktail world. Like salt and pepper, you add just a pinch, or in the case of bitters, a dash (or several). It’s an integral ingredient in a great many cocktails. Just try a Manhattan without the bitters to see what a difference it makes. In fact, the very notion of a cocktail itself is based on just four ingredients: spirit, water, sugar, and bitters.

While there are many different types and flavors of bitters (Fee Brothers makes a wide range), Angostura is the default, and you can likely even find it in your supermarket with an oversized label, and bright yellow cap. It’s 45% abv, which makes it 90 proof, though considered a non-potable bitter, meaning it’s too concentrated to drink straight. Angostura dates way back to 1824, when a doctor named Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert developed it as a healthful tonic, and named it for the town of Angostura in Venezuela. A distillery was soon built, and moved to the island of Trinidad in 1875 where it remains today. And it’s remained quite popular. According to their website, Angostura is the world leader in bitters and is available in 165 global markets. Yikes.

So. Bitters is normally used by the dash, which is why my current 4oz bottle is still kicking long after I bought it. Like eight years ago. This recipe is going to use a FULL OUNCE of the stuff, which should be interesting. That’s like seeing a recipe that calls for 17 pounds of salt. So I’m a bit wary, but intrigued. Be warned: Angostura bitters is quite concentrated (which is why it comes in 4oz bottles) and will stain the ever-loving holiness out of anything remotely porous that it touches. Like my shorts. And measuring cup. And countertop. And floor. Jaime Boudreau even used it as a wood stain to decorate his bar in Seattle. So when you’re doling out the full ounce, be careful.

The Trinidad Sour
As seen on Savoy Stomp.

– 1 oz Angostura Aromatic bitters. Yikes.
– 1 oz orgeat (Fee Bros. used)
– 3/4 oz lemon juice
– 1/2 oz rye whiskey (this time it was Pikesville Supreme)

Well, like any other cocktail, add the ingredients together in a mixing glass, add ice and a shaker tin, and shake away. You don’t need to pry off the little restrictor cap on the Angostura bottle; once you’ve got the bottle pointed straight down at whatever you’re using to measure, just shake the bottle, and that ounce mark will be hit fairly quickly. Again, be careful. Unless you like Angostura colored surroundings. And clothes.

I decided to garnish this with a big slice of lemon peel.

Nose: Well, not surprisingly, I smell Angostura and nothing else. The aromatic qualities are doing exactly what they’re supposed to. Dark spices, bark, cinnamon. It brings to mind the Carribean, and old timey sailing ships hauling a cargo of spices.

I’m kind of nervous about tasting this one, but here we go.

Taste: Surprisingly sweet to start, with almost a wine-like quality. Fruity and dark. Then the cinnamon kicks in. Whoa. Good, dark, powerful cinnamon. The first few chomps on a stick of Big Red gum comes to mind. There’s a slight lemon tart to cut through, though I’m having trouble picking out the rye except for a mild alcoholic bite in the finish. Though that could just as well be the Angostura’s 45% abv. It’s a lot better than I thought, as a full ounce of something considered “non-potable” called for a bit of hesitation. Very tasty if you like cinnamon and spices. It balances surprisingly well, and finishes a touch on the dry side. Nice.

What’s occurring to me now is that if Angostura goes for $8 in a 4oz bottle, this drink just cost me $2 worth of bitters. Yowza. Still the drink was surprisingly quite nice, and if you’re up for a cinnamon-spiced adventure, give it a try.

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