Wine & Spirits - April 2012 - (Page 18)
[\ Creativity in a Dash
by Lou Bustamante
hen I was mixing up drinks before a dinner party one night, the large assortment of bitters that I had assembled was generating a lot of conversation. Most of it boiled down to one question: What the heck do you do with them all? Cocktail bitters are basically seasonings for drinks, what salt and pepper are to food. Or, perhaps more accurately, like soy or ﬁsh sauce: they won’t work in everything, but when they do, they add a richness and depth to the ﬁnished drink that few other things can. Bitters were once an essential component of a good cocktail, but a mere ten years ago, they’d fallen so out of fashion you’d be lucky to ﬁnd two brands in even the most comprehensive store. So all those bartenders involved in the cocktail renaissance of the last decade were forced to be resourceful, seeking out old recipes and creating their own versions of unavailable styles. Now the choice extends from resurrected lost classics like celery bitters to versions that borrow from cuisine, like chocolate mole. Here’s a roundup of some of the best—with notes on what to do with them.
Stephan Berg and Alexander Hauck in Munich, Germany, released a new line of bitters: The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter Bitters, based on a recipe by the man considered the father of American bartending, has subtle allspice essences with ﬁnessed levels of cinnamon. It makes for an Old Fashioned that tastes straight out of the 1860s. The Fee Bros., who’ve been in the business of making syrups and bitters in Rochester, New York, since 1863, are on their sixth batch of the annually released Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters. You’ll have to be fast to get a bottle: They’re highly sought after for their big and bold ﬂavor, with concentrated bitterness and spice from barrel maturation. A dash adds serious attitude to a Rob Roy. Then there’s Hella Bitter Aromatic Wormwood Bitters, from Benjamin Ahr Harrison, Tobin Ludwig and Eduardo Simeon: Rather than wood tones, the herb absinthe made famous gives their bitters a bite. It’s an interesting alternative when your cocktail requires an herbal hit rather than a dry spice one.
Traditionally, bitters have fallen into two styles: aromatic and citrus. Angostura and Peychaud’s have long dominated the aromatic category; made with barks and spices, like cinnamon, cloves and citrus peels, they work best with aged barrel spirits (think Sazerac, Manhattan or Old Fashioned), where their full-bodied ﬂavors compliment the rich, sweet, toasty ﬂavors. Now, for the ﬁrst time in decades, these two have competition. In 2006, mixologists
Citrus bitters are lighter in color and bitterness than aromatic bitters, fragrant with fruit peels and spices such as cardamom and coriander. They are meant to compliment unaged spirits like gin or blanco tequila, for drinks such as Martinis. The Fee Brothers have long kept the citrus category alive with their West Indian Orange Bitters, a versatile bitters that can liven up most any drink. The release of Gary Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6 in 2005 reignited the citrus bitters market; today this category is crowded with choices.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Wine & Spirits - April 2012
Wine & Spirits - April 2012
Fined & Filtered: Patrick Comiskey on pairing wine with molecular gastronomy
Spirits: Lou Bustamante on cocktail bitters
Port without Serra
The Class of ’72
Brightliners in the Deep End
The Restoration of Austria’s Noble Red
New & Notable New York City Restaurants
23rd Annual Restaurant Poll
American Pinot Noir
Lost Commandments Howard G. Goldberg rewrites Exodus
Wine & Spirits - April 2012