Bitters Bandwagon

I am infatuated with my new book Bitters; “A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All” by Brad T. Parsons.  Thanks to Tom Douglas’ Cookbook social, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Parsons.  (I missed the wicked Bitters event at the Book Larder. Booo).  He was lovely.  He signed my book.  I’m not entirely sure what he wrote, but that matters not.

Mr. Parsons’ book is really a joy to read.  There is an excellent section on making your own bitters, followed by cocktail recipes, both classic and contemporary.  He ends with a “Bitters in the Kitchen” section…brilliant.  As much as the book is a fun read, it is also a visual amusement park with beautiful photography by Ed Anderson.

The diversity and breadth of the cocktail bitters available today is impressive and somewhat overwhelming.  It’s really just fun to collect and try them.  And my recent shopping trip to Dandelion Botanicals means I’m throwing my hat into the bitters ring.  Get ready peeps, I’ll be asking you to try some of my concoctions.

Meanwhile, we’re mixing a couple of autumnal cocktails featuring both bitters and bitter liqueurs.  First off the bench is the Autumn Sweater, a cocktail featured in Bitters and even more recently by Sonja Groset, who also provides more detail on Italian amari.

The Autumn Sweater is a rye-based drink with heavy use of the Italian bitter liqueurs Averna and Amaro Nonino.  This drink is finished with both maple bitters and orange bitters.  The flavor profile is perfect for wintery, cold weather.  Close your eyes and imagine a big, comfortable club chair in front of a roaring fireplace, snow falling outside like it was just the other day during Seattle Snowpocalypse, and you are holding in your hand a weighty rocks glass filled with the warm, cozy Autumn Sweater.  That’s what I’m talking about.

Autumn Sweater (as described in Bitters)

  • 30ml Rye (Michter’s)
  • 15ml Averna
  • 15ml Amaro Nonino
  • 15ml maple syrup
  • 1 dash Urban Moonshine Maple Bitters
  • 1 dash Orange Bitters (Regans #6)

Stir → Strain into a rocks glass with one big ice cube/sphere.

Garnish with clove-studded orange peel.  Add another log to the fire.

A tasty cocktail that I often make for CR is the Filibuster.  I discovered this cocktail in another book that I’m particularly fond of; Left Coast Libations by Ted Munat.  The Filibuster is also a rye based drink with maple syrup and Angostura Bitters.  I enjoy the challenge of making the Filibuster because to successfully pull off the visual appeal “you must become the master of the egg whites.”  This is a good drink.  Period.

 

Filibuster

  • 45ml Rye (Old Overholt)
  • 22ml lemon juice
  • 15ml grade B maple syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • Angostura bitters, for garnish

Dry shake like hell.

Add ice and shake like hell again.

Double strain into chilled glass.

Garnish with Angostura bitters.  Make like a Seattle-hipster-barista and fancify the Angostura drops.  Try not to down the drink in record time.

Advertisements

Mixing the Museum – The Black Russian

This is Perle Mesta. She just finished a Black Russian, which is also her cute little dog's name (at least in my world).

Welcome back to the Lab!  Today’s cocktail is the Black Russian.  (I’m still plodding away in the B section of my Museum of the American Cocktail Book; my handy-dandy pocket recipe guide).  When I turned the page to the Black Russian…my reaction:  Meh.

Two ingredients…vodka and coffee liqueur, neither of which I like all that well.  But apparently the one-time US ambassador to Luxembourg, Perle Mesta, was a big fan of the vodka/coffee combo.  The Black Russian made its first appearance in the late 1940’s when Gustave Tops, a bartender at the Hotel Metropole in Brussels created the concoction for Ambassador Mesta.

The Black Russian is traditionally made with Kahlua, a Mexican rum-based coffee liqueur.  Here’s where I started to struggle with my science schtick for this post.  Damn the Black Russian!  What was I going to talk about?  Vodka?  Seriously? Kahlua?…coffee…interesting….now we’re getting somewhere.  Gears are turning.  Yes, that’s it!  Biofermentation!  Thank the baby Jesus for that Food Science degree.  My family would be so proud of how I apply my skills.

Fun DrinkScience Fact

(I’ll do the research so you can impress your friends at your next cocktail party).

So what does biofermentation have to do with the Black Russian, you ask?  According to Kahlua, coffee is really used during the production of this beverage.  And lest we forget, we live in the coffee-soaked city of Seattle, so we all drink coffee, right?  As such, I assume that you all know a little about the coffee production process.  Beans are picked, they’re green, then they’re roasted, we grind them, and then we make coffee, yes?  Yes, but let’s fill in the gaps with a few more details.  In fact, just go and take a look at this slide deck by the Jackels of Seattle U. and U.W. Bothell which explains coffee bean fermentation:  http://faculty.washington.edu/jackels/research/UCAPresentation_files/frame.htm  (People really do study this phenomenon).

Basically, after the outer skin and pulp surrounding the coffee beans are removed, there still exists a mucilage layer (aka parchment/endocarp).  That’s right, I said mucilage.

Remember this stuff?

This is mucilage; it even says so.  My grandma always had this stuff at her house and I would love to glue anything just so I could use the strange rubbery glue applicator.  Strange kid, I know.

The coffee beans with their mucilage layer are put in a fermentation tank so nature can take its course.  The mucilage is a thick, gluey, pectin covering, and a natural fermentation process removes the goo.  When I say ‘natural’ I mean that no organisms are added to the tank.  This is all just the normal flora…nature.  Bacteria, yeast, and fungi that produce pectinases, enzymes that break down pectin, are naturally occurring and will eat the mucilage away from the beans.

This is pectin:

So is this:

These are pectinase producing microorganisms.  Bacteria:

 

Yeast, such as Pichia and Candida.

Let’s not forget the fungi…Aspergillus, Penicillium and Fusarium

Once the bioenzymatic process is complete, the goo is gone and the coffee beans are washed and ready for the next step:  Drying, roasting, and Kahlua!

Without further ado:

The Black Russian!

  • 60ml Vodka
  • 30ml Kahlua
  • Build over ice in rocks glass.  Serve to someone that will drink it.

Black Russian. Courtesy of Sugar Sand Photography!