Posts Tagged ‘bitters’

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.

Rule 37: The Fitzgerald

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 week’s Bacchanalian bounty comes courtesy of 12 Bottle Bar, a post from about two years ago. The Fitzgerald is, essentially, a gin sour. Apparently created by legend Dale DeGroff, 12 Bottle got the recipe from DeGroff’s OTHER cocktail book, The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks. If I owned that particular tome, I likely would have made this one long ago, as I am generally a fan of sours. Sours are a certain family of cocktails, like slings, cobblers, flips and collinseses. The sour is a mixture of spirit, sugar, and citrus juice, usually in similar ratios, and is one of the most popular styles of mixed drinks. Here’s a few examples:

Whiskey Sour: whiskey, simple syrup, lemon juice

Daiquiri (Rum Sour): rum, simple syrup, lime juice

Margarita (Tequila Sour): tequila, triple sec, lime juice

Sidecar (Brandy Sour): brandy or cognac, triple sec, lemon juice

Kamikaze (Vodka Sour): vodka, triple sec, lime juice.

Pisco Sour: pisco, simple syrup, lime juice, egg white, Angostura bitters

Traditionally, a whiskey sour also contained egg white, which gives the drink a frothier, creamier mouthfeel, though I don’t really care for it.

So, the Fitzgerald is a gin sour, with some Angostura bitters added in. Here’s how to make it:

The Fitzgerald

– 1 1/2 oz gin (Bombay London Dry used)
– 3/4 oz lemon juice
– 3/4 oz simple syrup
– 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake with ice, strain, and serve in a cocktail glass. Float a lemon wheel as garnish. Sip quietly among the violets whilst contemplating the Violet Hour.

The two dashes of Angostura give the liquid an orange hue, rather than the usual pale lemon yellow sour. The nose is rather gin-y, with a botanical perfume wafting up from the surface, despite the lemon wheel lazily drifting about the coupe. There is a slight Pledge quality from the citrus, though the gin certainly dominates the aroma.

The taste is a lovely floral mixture of gin and lemon, but sweet. After being spoiled by tasty Rehorst Gin, I find the Bombay London Dry to be a bit on the perfumey side, like funeral homes and plug-in air fresheners. It’s certainly a lemony drink, and the Angostura lends a much-needed dark spice to the background. Without the bitters, this would likely be too sickly-sweet, but the cinnamon clove zest of the Angostura certainly livens up the party. It’s quite nice, but I’d like it better with a different gin and an extra dash of bitters.

Rule 37: The Meletti Manhattan

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 week’s Rule 37 is a twist on a favorite. The Law of Cocktails states that when you change the ingredients in a cocktail, it becomes a new cocktail. I’m not talking about switching brands: a Tanqueray and tonic versus Bombay Sapphire are both still “gin and tonics.” More along the lines of changing out the gin for another liquor, or switching the tonic to club soda. When you change an ingredient, it becomes a different drink. There is no such thing as a “vodka martini” (a Martini, by name, is made with gin. With vodka it becomes a Kangaroo, or, according to Dale DeGroff, a Silver Bullet). There is no “Strawberry Margarita” (a Margarita is tequila, triple sec and lime juice).

This Manhattan, is not a Mahnattan.

This whole mess started when I visited Bin Ends, a local wine/spirit/craft beer shop, last Thursday night to partake of a liqueur tasting. Some months ago, I saw a bottle of “Amaro Meletti” in Bin Ends, and, being interested in expanding my amaro education, bought a bottle (amaro is an Italian bitter herbal liqueur, usually taken as a digestivo. Campari is a popular one). I figured since it was only $18, it was worth a try. After tasting, I was extremely impressed with the Meletti: it smells wonderfully of eucalyptus, and other miscellaneous herbal playthings, and tastes as it smells. It’s quite nice neat (at 32% abv it’s perfectly sippable), over ice, or with soda. Intended as a digestivo, it’s a very soothing after-dinner tipple. The Lady Friend quite enjoyed it, as did Wifey, though Irish Lad said it reminded him of cough medicine. However, I was sold on it, and made a point to taste the rest of the Meletti products at the Bin Ends event.

There were four liqueurs offered: the amaro, the sambuca, the anisette, and “Cioccolato” the chocolate liqueur. As I tasted, I chatted with the sales rep, Nick, of Origin Beverage Company, an alcohol distributer and subsidiary of Horizon Beverage in Avon, MA, though specializing in more crafted, unique products (they carry Bully Boy, for example). I wound up talking about all sorts of boozy things with him for about 45 minutes, and he suggested a cocktail recipe that would include my amaro: a variation on the Manhattan.

A true Manhattan is 2oz whiskey (usually bourbon, though historically rye was used), 1oz sweet (red, Italian) vermouth, and a dash (I like several dashes) of bitters (again, usually Angostura, though there are many more on the market now). For the variation, the amaro would be used in place of the vermouth. Nick recommended a high-rye content bourbon, as the rye spice would help to cut down the amaro’s herbal sweetness. I figured if you’re going to use a high-rye bourbon, you may as well use a proper rye (which launched into a rye discussion). I decided to break out the big guns: Rittenhouse 100 proof for this one.

The Meletti Manhattan

– 2 oz Rittenhouse 100 proof Rye
– 1 oz Meletti Amaro
– 3 generous dashes Peychaud’s bitters (for an extra anise flavoring. felt the cinnamon of Fee Bros or Angostura would be too much)

Always STIR a Manhattan, after pouring the ingredients into an ice-filled mixing glass. If you think you’ve stirred too long, look at the clock, realize it’s only been ten seconds of stirring, and stir some more. Stir until the walls of the glass are cold and frosted.
Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

The general rule is to stir drinks that are composed of spirits, and shake those that contain fruit juices. Stirring keeps a transparent drink nice and clear (think Manhattans, Martinis, Negronis) whereas a shaken fruit drink (Daiquiris, Margaritas, Whiskey Sours) will be cloudy. Because the fruit juice is opaque, it doesn’t matter that shaking it will introduce ice shards and bubbles into the liquid. Shaking also helps to slosh liquids around the ice in the shaker, and cool the drink faster, which is why you have to stir a bit longer than you would normally shake. In both cases, you want to mix and cool the drink, also adding the final ingredient, water, which will dilute the drink slightly, making the alcohol a bit more palatable. Yes, water is an ingredient in cocktails, and a very important one.

So, now that we’re through with my rant on stirring, how was the drink?

Well, it nosed with an herbal/eucalyptus of the Meletti. Almost a slightly stale, vegetative aroma. Not quite earthy, but more like damp green leaves. Really masks all other odors, including the Rittenhouse, which is a high-proof spicy rye powerhouse. The amaro is VERY aromatic.

The taste: wow. That’s really odd, but interesting. For the first several moments, the Meletti and Rittenhouse trade flavors back and forth in a taste bud tug of war. The herbal tastes of the Meletti, far more flavorful than the sweet vermouth it replaces, attempt to usurp the Rittenhouse, yet the rye will not be taken so easily. The taste sensations switch from left to right in your mouth with the eucalyptus menthol of the amaro on the left, and the spicy high proof rye on the right. In the end, the rye wins, with a lovely bitter spice, and some alcohol kick to the finish, though a slight lingering ghost of the herbal essence (not the shampoo, though almost as orgasmic) remains.

The bitters are lost in the conflict. I’m sure there’s some anise lurking in there somewhere, but it’s like a rowboat in between two battleships at sea.

After a sip, the Lady Friend had some thoughts of her own to contribute:

“The whiskey is supposed to be the star of this drink.”
“If you’re going to use a nice whiskey like Rittenhouse, you don’t necessarily want to overpower it.”
“…not that it’s bad.”

She reiterated her silly little female opinion that I should rework the ratios to account for the flavorfulness of the Meletti. Perhaps, but as-is, I think it’s far more interesting, as the two flavor profiles struggle for dominance. Not a Manhattan in the traditional sense, but still a mighty fine cocktail.

Rule 37: The East India Cocktail

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.

Well, turkey day approaches, and the Lady Friend found several holiday/ seasonal cocktails to try. This one looked tasty, and she wouldn’t call in our dinner order until I chose a cocktail, so the East India was the one to go with. Now, I feel like I have a lot of Dale DeGroff’s cocktails on here, but that’s because I tend to use his book, The Craft of the Cocktail, quite frequently. It was the first cocktail book I bought, after seeing him on an episode of Modern Marvels (it was the “Distilling” episode), where they discussed the production methods of several liquors, and then cut to DeGroff mixing an example cocktail with each liquor. If I recall correctly, he did vodka (Cosmopolitan), scotch (scotch, neat), tequila (Margarita), rum (Mojito) and whiskey (Manhattan). There was a “Distilling 2″ episode that dealt with brandy, gin, and Irish whiskey. Maybe the Irish was in the specific “Whiskey” episode. I don’t remember exactly, but they’re all cool, if you’re a Modern Marvels and/ or liquor geek. I seriously got sucked into watching “Glue” on MM once. It sounds like the most mundane thing in the world, but then it got really cool and interesting. Anyway, DeGroff’s book is well-designed, clean, and features lots of good advice and interesting stories from his years of bartending.

So, that’s the story. I happened to have another DeGroff recipe on here that didn’t even come from the book. But it was tasty. I’m not trying to play favorites, but whatever, it’s my blog, so I do what I want. So there. Have a drink.

The East India Cocktail
The Dale DeGroff version, not from his book. Plus, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, so there’s that.

– 1 1/2 oz cognac (I cheated and used brandy)
– 1 oz orange curaçao
– 1 1/2 oz pineapple juice (he said unsweetened, but I just used the Dole I normally use)
– 1 dash Angostura bitters (I used a couple)
– Flamed orange peel
– Nutmeg

Shake/strain/serve in chilled cocktail glass. Flame the orange peel over the top, and grate some fresh nutmeg on the foam.

So, we got the reciepe from hereabouts, and there is a helpful video as well. It won’t embed, so you’ll have to go watch it there. A couple of things: as noted in the video, if you give it a good, hard, shake, you should get some nice foam from the pineapple juice. I gave the Angostura a couple dashes, and found that it still got lost in the flavor of the drink, so I gave it a couple more over the top and stirred it in. I actually made two versions of the drink, one with Angostura bitters, and the other with my Fee Bros Whiskey Barrel-aged bitters, which has a lot of cinnamon and spice in it. I’m trying to get the Lady Friend to see the effect that different bitters have in cocktails, and she found that one to be much more flavorful. It’s one of my favorites, and really kicks up a Manhattan.

Though it’s not in the picture, I did flame the orange peel over the top (and the Lady Friend got to try as well), which means all you smell in this drink is orange. Not that it’s a bad thing, but the Lady Friend started to nose it, and I said she wouldn’t get anything but the orange. We both enjoyed the cocktail, though I omitted the nutmeg. I don’t even know where I would go about finding fresh nutmeg, though I should probably find out, as it pops up quite commonly in holiday seasonal cocktails. Actually, I don’t have a grater either. This is getting tricky. It’s a tasty cocktail without it, but could use some liberal application of the bitters, or a stronger one to start with.

Now go make it.

The $50 Manhattan

My current Lady Friend has come to share in my interest of cocktails. She’s a tequila gal, which leaves my whisky splendidily available for my sole consumption. Over the course of our time together, I have been encouraging her to start a small home bar of her own. Due to a lack of space, it had to be compact and simple, with the bare essentials. A bamboo serving tray on her kitchen countertop now houses bottles of reposado tequila, rye whisky, brandy, and triple sec (for that unquenchable Margarita thirst she’s developed after being weaned off of plastic handle mixto tequila). The proper equipment has been more of a process, with citrus press and Hawthorn strainer acquired, but a proper Boston shaker still proving elusive. True, through the interwebs one might be found easily, but when it costs more to ship an item than the purchase price totals, it’s a bit disheartening.

Fortunately, the ever-growing cocktail movement has spawned The Boston Shaker, a wonderful cocktail supply store in Somerville, MA, just out of Davis Square. I had been meaning to check it out for some time, and here was a perfect excuse. Knowing we’d be in the area, I rang up a nearby liquor store in the off-chance that they were in possession of one of my favorite whiskies: Rittenhouse.

Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey is 100-proof straight rye, and carries the term “bottled in bond” meaning that it has been aged and bottled under the supervision of the U.S. Government. This is a mostly outdated term, and was originally put in place to assure the consumer that the whisky was the real deal, not blinding rotgut. Rittenhouse Rye is one of the few left who still adhere to this, and though they allegedly make an 80-proof version (which I’ve never been able to find), the 100-proof bottled in bond version is simply amazing.

…or rather it would be amazing if I could get my hands on it. Several years ago after searching many local liquor stores, the Holy Grail was found: one bottle at one store for ~$20. It was emptied entirely too quickly, and I needed another fix. Unfortunately, Rittenhouse seems to only release their new batch around September, and that was months away. Since then, I’ve haunted that store every fall waiting for the new bottles to come in. My latest bottle came as a gift from a friend, an Irish Lad who I’ve put on Rittenhouse Watch Status, keeping an eye out whenever he’s shopping for himself. As it happens, he and his wifey were down in Delaware for a family function and scored a bottle of my precious.  It has served me well, though once we dip past the halfway mark, the rationing begins. Which brings us to a Saturday afternoon phone call, as a bored drawl dripping with a complete lack of concern clashed with my over-enthusiastic queries:

“Uh, hi, do you have Rittenhouse Rye?”




“The 100-proof??”


“… Faaaaantastic!”

I turned to the Lady Friend, “We have to go. NOW.”

I hurled her little Corolla (named “Phantom” after its Phantom Grey paint) up 93 to the fustercluck that is Cambridge on a Saturday. After inching through Harvard Square hitting every possible red light on Mass Ave, we finally arrive to do battle in the parking lot of the plaza for any available space. Fortunately, a space was procured with little bloodshed, and I fastwalked to the doorway, burst in and beelined directly to the whisky. The legends were true: five glowing amber bottles of my precious were crouched on the shelf …with a brand new $30 price tag. My plans of procuring dual bottles for a private reserve stash are vaporized, as I cradled the single bottle I could justify to my bank account. At the counter, I mentioned my dismay and the same languid voice from the phone slurred “Yup. We’re the only ones in town who have it. Prices went up. Supply and demand.” Curse you capitalist swine!

After passing the world along to Irish Lad that the fabled bottle is in stock, Lady Friend and I head towards Davis for our original destination: the Boston Shaker. Just past Orleans restaurant (Irish Lad’s spouse, Wifey was in a tv commercial of theirs, pretending to laugh on a date, though she laments that the drinks used on set weren’t real) on Holland Street is the odd little shop with a window full of various cocktail glasses. Though the space is small, it is a cocktailer’s happy place, with shakers and strainers, exotic tiki syrups, recipe books, bitters and OH MY GOD WHISKEY BARREL BITTERS.

Fee Brothers, a company based in Rochester, NY, has a varied line of cocktail bitters, including their elusive whiskey barrel-aged variety. They take their normal Old-Fashioned style, and age them in charred oak whiskey barrels. While I was having a mild seizure, the shop girl remarked “We just got those in. You should get them.” These do not last on the shelves. The barrel aged bitters are released yearly in limited quantities, and once they’re gone, that’s it.

Though the price tag read $14, I had to have them. Lady Friend got her new shaker tin, knowing we’d track down a mixing glass elsewhere, and I chatted with the shop girl about my intentions for a Rittenhouse Manhattan with my new bitters that night. At the mention of the Rittenhouse, she froze, and I passed along the info of my recently-purchased bottle’s origins. Muttering at her watch “…two hours left, damn.” she thanked me and vowed to head straight there after her shift.

After a stop to browse the wonderfully-priced selections at Atlas Liquors (often the best value I’ve seen in the area), we headed for home laden with our bounty: Lady Friend purchased a handle of El Jimador blanco for Margaritas aplenty, while I snagged a small bottle of Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth for myself. Finally in the shelter of my manpartement, it was time.

The $50 Manhattan from Heaven

– 2oz Rittenhouse Rye ($30)

– 1oz Martini & Rossi Rosso sweet vermouth ($6)

– Three liberal dashes of Fee Bros Whiskey Barrel-Aged bitters ($14)

Stir. Strain. Serve.

The spicy 100-proof rye snaps at your tongue and pulls a woolen sweater over your brain. Sweet vermouth polishes the rough edges and the barrel-aged bitters reek of cinnamon warmth. Worth every penny; you can buy happiness.

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