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.

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!

Get Back in the Lab!

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Hey Folks! Happy Holidays and New Year! The Laboratory has been a long time on hiatus.

The Libation Laboratory relocated, and as anyone in the science business knows, breaking down and setting up a lab takes a long time. But we’re just about back up and running. Expect to see alot from us this next year.

But tonight, Sugarsand is in the lab! We’re mixing and photodocumenting. Stay tuned to see the results!

Cheers!

Mixing the Museum – The Bijou

I’m taking some liberties in our visit to the Museum.  I’m skipping a couple of drinks (Between the sheets – a great cocktail, and one we’ll revisit someday; The Berlin Station Chief – sounds weird and I just can’t bring myself to make it yet; The Bellini – I’m waiting until peaches are in season) and moving onto the Bijou.

The Bijou Cocktail was created by Mr. Harry Johnson and the consensus is that the recipe first appeared in his book The New and Improved Bartenders Manual.  This is a spirit-forward herbal cocktail, containing equal parts gin, vermouth, Green Chartreuse and bitters.  Let’s take a look at one of the ingredients of this cocktail, and special favorite of mine.

Green Chartreuse (it also comes in Yellow) is an herbal liqueur made by Carthusian monks, and it really is green.  The recipe is thought to have originated in 1605 as an “elixir of long life.”  The recipe is a carefully guarded secret, and to this day, supposedly only two monks at any one time know the recipe for the herbal mixture that is used to make Green Chartreuse.

Fun DrinkScience Fact

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

The liqueur’s emerald green color is derived from this stuff:

The 'Green' in Green Chartreuse

The ‘Green’ in Green Chartreuse is Chlorophyll B which is produced by the 132 botanical ingredients used to make the liqueur.  (Interestingly, chlorophyll also contributes to the color of absinthe).

Chlorophyll donates an electron in this reaction.

Chlorophyll is involved in a cascade of sophisticated reactions known as Photosynthesis (simplified above).  This is how plants get energy and produce oxygen, and is in fact the source for the majority of all oxygen in our atmosphere.

So it is with no great surprise that Green Chartreuse was known as an elixir of long life, for the same ingredients that make this liqueur, also contribute to the air we breath.

The Bijou Cocktail 

  • 30 ml Plymouth Gin
  • 30 ml Green Chartreuse
  • 30 ml Dolin Sweet Vermouth
  • Dash of Orange Bitters
  • Stir, strain in to  a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with cherry and lemon twist.  Cheers!

    The Bijou by Sugar Sand Photography

A New Day in the Laboratory – Make Some Bench Space for Sugar Sand Photography

There have been many famous duos and partnerships throughout history….Laverne and Shirley, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Bonnie and Clyde, Captain and Tennille, Tarzan and Jane, Thelma and Louise, and the list goes on.  Today, a new partnership and dynamic duo joins this illustrious list of famous twosomes.  I am pleased to announce that Sugar Sand Photography is teaming with the Libation Laboratory to bring you not only tasty cocktail recipes, history, science and narrative, but also sparkly, shiny, mouth-watering pictures to photo document the adventure.  The Laboratory is lucky to have the expertise of Sugar Sand Photography; this is some serious professional photography, folks.  It’s safe to say, the Libation Laboratory has just kicked it up a notch.  Stay tuned, keep your hands in the car, and hang on; this is going to be fun.

Hello World!

Libation Laboratory is migrating to WordPress.com. We are a work in progress in the near term.  Stay tuned.  Mixology Monday is coming up on June 20th.  We’ll be doing an inaugural post on the new site featuring a cocktail created by one of the preeminent bars in the country.

>Mixing the Museum – The Bamboo Cocktail

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As work and life (too much of the former; the latter all good, more please) happen and diversions occur (one of which was an awesome trip to some of the best cocktail bars in DC – we’ll read about that in a future post), we are still slowly making our way through the Mixing the Museum exercise. Turning the page from The Barcardi Cocktail, we come to The Bamboo.  Again, a cocktail that is novel to me, reinforcing my justification for our mock Julie/Julia blogging.  

Though originating in Japan, The Bamboo cocktail is credited to a German gentleman, Mr. Louis Eppinger, who managed the luxurious Grand Hotel in Yokohama, Japan in the 1890’s.  In the late 1800’s this elegant hotel, a playground for affluent Westerners, opened in Yokohama, a major trading center of the time.  Yokohama was one of the first major port cities in Japan, and is today, Japan’s second largest city.  Because of its prominence in foreign and Western trading, the city quickly became home to many foreigners and was influenced heavily by those from Great Britain, Germany, and America.  Mr. Louis Eppinger likely created the Bamboo cocktail to cater to his Western clientele.  Except for originating in Japan and the distinctive botanical name, there is nothing very Japanese about the cocktail.  

Unfortunately much of Yokohama and the Grand Hotel was destroyed by a large earthquake in September 1923.  The earthquake and Tsunami that devastated Japan in March 2011 was Northeast of Yokohama, and thus little damage occurred there.   

The Bamboo
1 oz. Dolin Dry Vermouth
1 oz. Lustau Dry Amontillado sherry
1 dash Angostura Bitters
2 dashes Orange Bitters (Regans #6)
Stir and strain into a vintage cocktail glass. 
We garnished ours with an olive.

So mix it, drink it, enjoy it.