Cocktails are a lot like fashion; trends that were once old will eventually become new again. So is the case with the latest burgeoning movement in cocktailing- Bitters.
Bitters, like many popular spirits got its start as a medicinal aid in the early twentieth century when Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert began selling it to British sailors as a cure for sea-sickness and other stomach issues. It quickly became popular as an appetite stimulant, either as an aperitif or digestif. While most Bitters have an herbal or bitter taste, some are flavored with fruits or other essences.
Today, the most commonly known Bitters are Angostura Bitters, Peychaud’s Bitters and Campari but a slew of new Bitters have recently entered the scene and are helping to spur a resurgence of the classic bar staple.
The best part about this Bitters-renaissance is that the new flavors lend themselves to a more unique experience than traditionally seen from the classic Bitters (don’t get me wrong- Peychaud’s and Angostura will still be mainstays in any well-stocked bar). Additionally, now Bitters are more accessible to the everyday bartender or cocktail groupie (yours truly) making for a better bitter experience.
First up; Bittermens Bitters. (Re)introduced in January 2011 and straight outta Brooklyn, this Bitters line began with the Xocolatl Mole Bitters and quickly expanded to more than ten fabulously original flavors (click here for full list). They can be purchased at the Bittermens General Store or sampled at Amor y Amargo. Try any of their amazing Bitters with Tequila and you are sure to have a winner on your hands.
Scrappy’s Bitters out of Seattle come in an AMAZING range of flavors from Chocolate to Celery. These pair perfectly with any spirit…particularly delicious is the Ragazza Cocktail which uses their Grapefruit Bitters (also available in the recipe section of our site).
Not to be overlooked is Bitter-Brooklyner, A.B. Smeby Bittering Co. which produces local, seasonal Bitters. Flavors run the gamut from Black and White-like the cookie-(a mixture of Mexican Chocolate, Tahitian Vanilla and Raw Cinnamon) to Lemon Verbana (fresh verbana, young ginger and lemongrass). These Bitters are available on their website or at a number of bars throughout the city such as The Modern and PDT.
If you are unable to find any of these Bitters locally, you can always make your own (slightly ambitious, but well worth it). It is actually easier than you might think. Here is an excellent recipe for Cherry Bitters or for a super simple Bitters recipe, try this courtesy of Art of Drink. This is one I will be trying myself (as soon as I locate the snake-root).
I encourage you to try a Bitters cocktail the next time you are out for a drink, or even better make your own…and remember, dont be bitter, be better! (okay, I’m through with the lame Bitter puns)
I love a good drink (truth be told I like a bad drink too). I have been a loyal Vodka enthusiast for most of my drinking life- it is close to perfect as far as spirits are concerned…self sufficient yet plays well with others and is suitable for most occasions.
Recently, however I was lured away from my beloved Russian voda by a Mark Bittman drink recipe in the NY Times that my friend and I decided to test.
Two Grown Up Granitas later, my affair with Gin began. Although I had sworn it off for many years, I found myself newly intrigued by this Dutch tonic. Alone, Gin has little to no taste, hence the historic adding of Juniper to flavor the alcohol- but its mixability is irresistable to me. It goes with everything! From my fav mixer; pink grapefruit juice and lime to a more exotic cactus syrup or Cassis. I’ve also noticed more and more mixologists experiementing with infused Gin, from the lavender-infused Provencale at Employees Only to the pepper-infused #95 at Hurricane Club. These creative infusions have traditionally been reserved for Vodka, but Gin is getting in on the action as well.
As I skulk around from bar to bar, secretly searching out Gin on the cocktail menu, I can’t help but feel a pang of guilt for turning my back on Vodka…not to worry though, I will always go back to my true love, whether it be a Spicy Bloody Mary or the “new” classic Moscow Mule…Vodka has been a tried and true American classic since being introduced in the 1950’s and I will always consider it my 70-proof droog.
Which do you prefer Vodka or Gin? What are your favorite mixers? Any thoughts on infused spirits?