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.

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>Mixing the Museum – A Triumvirate to Start

>I’m certainly glad I didn’t commit to 100 drinks in 100 days.  After more than two weeks of mulling things over and numerous delays, we are finally kicking off the “Mixing the Museum” project we described in our last post.   The book, the Museum of the American Cocktail Pocket Recipe Guide (MOTAC) compiled and edited by superstar cocktail aficionados Robert Hess and Anistatia Miller, is a brilliant little tome that everyone must have in their cocktail libary.  There are 100 cocktail recipes that we will be working our way through in the days to come.

KB’s visit was a perfect opportunity to dive into the MOTAC project.  Two super-tasters in the house!…right on!…let’s try to get through a few of these cocktails.  First up…The Algonquin.

A swank hotel that opened in the early 1900’s in New York City, the Algonquin was known for being one of the first hotels to accept single women travelers.  Notably, the early literary feminists Gertrude Stein and Simone de Beauvoir were known to frequent the Algonquin Hotel.  While it is intriguing to think about the conversations these women would have engaged in over a cocktail, their talk would not have been loosened by liquor as prohibition was in full force during much of the time that Gertrude and Simone might have crossed paths in New York City.  Let’s sip an Algonquin in their honor and imagine sharing the bar with these avant-garde women.  

The Algonquin

The Algonquin
2oz. rye (Old Overholt)
1oz. dry vermouth (Dolin)
1oz. fresh pineapple juice

Shake with ice – strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a cherry.

I wanted to like this cocktail.  Rye, vermouth, pineapple juice…what’s not to like?  But the flavor combination just didn’t knock me off my feet.  No complaints from KB and CR.  What’s next?

Turn the page….The Americano.…..  Queue the singing gondolier…

This cocktail dates to the mid 1800’s and was created by Gaspare Campari, and was first served in his bar Caffe Campari in Milan, Italy.  As you probably guessed, Gaspare created the aperitif herbal liqueur Campari.  With a tip of the hat to the ingredient’s brand geography, it was originally known as the Milano-Torino.  Apparently, in the early 1900’s there were such great numbers of Americans in Italy enjoying the Milano-Torino, the people of Italy chose to show their appreciation and affection by renaming the cocktail, the Americano. 

Fun DrinkScience Fact (I’ll do the research so you can impress your friends at your next cocktail party):

The red color of Campari used to come from these little guys:

Dactylopius coccus

The little red beetle makes this stuff:

Carminic Acid = Red Dye

The red dye is also known as carmine.  The cochineal beetles are such impressive carmine factories that the dye actually occurs as 17-24% of the weight of the dry insects.  Besides, Campari, carmine is also used to color a number of other products, such as yogurt and ice cream as well as cosmetics. 

Apparently in the mid-2000’s Campari stopped using crushed Dactylopius coccus as a source of red carmine, and instead began to use “artificial color” to achieve the brilliant red of it’s famous liqueur.  I checked my bottle and sure enough the label reads ‘artificially colored.’

Regardless of whether my red Campari has insect based carmine or FD&C Red 40, let’s mix the Americano.  (I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never tried the Americano).

The Americano

The Americano
1oz. Campari
1oz. sweet vermouth (Dolin)
Soda Water

Build in a highball with ice.  Stir.  Top with soda water.  One more gentle stir.  Garnish with lemon twist. 

Bitter, sweet, tasty.  This is a cocktail that CR and I will enjoy sitting in the steamers looking out at the water next summer.  Or the next time we are in Milan.  Cin Cin!


The last in our triumvirate of cocktails from the MOTAC kick-off party is the Arnaud.  According to Sir Hess and Dame Miller, the Arnaud was “Invented in the 1920’s as part of a promotional campaign in which Booth’s Gin asked famous British stage and screen stars to select their favorite libations.  This particular drink was selected by and named after the French actress Yvonne Arnaud…” 

Yvonne Arnaud

Yvonne Arnaud’s singing and stage career singer spanned from the early 1900’s to 1958.  As a cocktail enthusiast, I have to say I find it impressive in a trading-card-cocktail-geek kind of way that Yvonne has a cocktail named in her honor.  I think one’s prominence in history should be measured by the fact that a classic cocktail bears their name.  Why not?  Sure, all the other stuff that they did to ensure their name is still recognized today carries a lot of weight too.  But a cocktail?  That’s cool.  And a tasty cocktail…even better. 

The Arnaud

The Arnaud
1oz. gin (Plymouth)
1oz. dry vermouth (Dolin)
1oz. creme de cassis (Clear Creek Cassis Liqueur)

Stir with ice – strain into a cocktail glass.
I didn’t garnish, though some recipe variations call for a blackberry garnish.
This was the favorite of the night for KB and CR, and I also enjoyed this cocktail.  We’ll mix it again.  This recipe makes the cocktail notebook for future use.