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This article was written on 12 Jan 2012, and is filled under Preserve.

A little bitters goes a long way.

My army of blue bitters bottles. Say that five times fast.

(UPDATED: recipes and instructions added.)

(Inspired by #bandofbitters and this awesome post: http://www.thepeche.com/home/2011/10/17/lavender-bitters-plum-ginger-gin-cocktails-and-band-of-bitte.html)

It’s been quite a while since my last post. I’ve never been able to successfully keep a journal in my entire life. But I’m trying, folks, really I am. I also took a bit of time off from new projects. Part of that was Hanukah inspired madness at work. Part of that was because of a project that kept growing in scope over the holidays, just now coming to fruition.

I joined Karen and Chris from thepeche.com in their self-styled “Band of Bitters” experiment. This started way back in October (damn). I like to make everything complicated so I headed over to good ole’ Google to learn more about “bitters.” I happened upon a very detailed blog post about the varied techniques of making your own bitters, by Jamie Boudreau. He recommends steeping the aromatics separately and then mixing the tinctures together to taste, allowing infinite tweaking of flavors to achieve the desired balance. I was all over this. It just made sense. I then spent forever tracking down quantities of herbs, fruit, medicinal tinctures of gentian and wormwood, huge bottles of 100 proof vodka, and teeny dropper bottles for packaging. I appropriated four leftover etrog fruit (a.k.a. citron) abandoned in my office after the holiday of Sukkot to help jumpstart the process.

They were so gorgeous. The house smelled amazing.

1. MAKING THE TINCTURES:

I steeped the following in jars of 100 proof vodka:

  • etrog peel with local, organic cranberries (2 cups of vodka)
  • etrog peel solo (2 cups of vodka)
  • cinnamon sticks (1 cup of vodka)
  • star anise, fennel seed, clove (1 cup of vodka)
  • green cardamom pods (1 cup of vodka)
  • grapefruit peel (3 cups of vodka – I have a lot left over….)
  • hibiscus flower (1.5 cups of vodka)
  • pink peppercorn (1 cup of vodka)
  • and some vanilla bean (probably cover that in another post) (1.5 cups of vodka)
Vanilla bean, hibiscus, and pink peppercorn.

 

Some jars.

Playing Mad Scientist, I tinkered with my concoctions, added just the right amount of simple syrup, drank in the middle of the day (hello testing!) and made a huge mess. Oh my god, this was so much fun. I made three types of bitters, each with a varying amount of “bittering” agent, depending on the intended use.

2. THE MIXTURES (adjust to your taste)

The Etrog Spice

This one is much like a traditional citrus bitters. It is best used just a few drops in any drink you would normally add a twist of lemon or a dash or three of angostura. I have been putting it in everything from a champagne to my favorite old fashioned.

  • 2 cups of Etrog tincture
  • 1/2 cup of cardamom tincture
  • 1/4 cup of cinnamon tincture
  • 1/2 tsp of orange extract (I picked some up at my local spice store)
  • 1/2 cup of simple syrup
  • 15 drops of gentian extract (Order from your local herb of natural food store… call around, you’ll find it.)

The Grapefruit Hibiscus

This hot pink liquid has only the slightest bite in the finish, and is great used by the swirly pink dropperful or to taste. I’ve added it to vodka and lemonade, gin and tonic, and prosecco. I have some Absolut Grapefruit and the two together pack quite a punch.

  • 1 1/2 cups of hibiscus tincture
  • 1 1/2 cups grapefruit tincture
  • 1 cup pink peppercorn tincture
  • 1/2 cup simple syrup
  • 5 drops of gentian extract

The Spiced Anise

I want this to be a bit like period or absinthe. I’m hoping for something fun to try in a sazerac.

UPDATE: After mixing it still didn’t have a strong enough licorice flavor, so I added a little more vodka and tossed two whole star anise pods into the jar. I let it sit for another week, and now I think it tastes perfect. The final recipe is shown below.

  • 1 cup of star anise, fennel seed, and clove tincture
  • 1/2 cup simple syrup
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 10 drops of wormwood
  • 2 star anise pods

3. HOW TO MIX YOUR BITTERS:

Mix everything together and TASTE. You may want more simple syrup. Do it. Rock it. Then GRADUALLY add a few drops at a time of your “bittering agent” (gentian, wormwood or a host of other bitter brews). I would mix a few drops of bitters in a splash of seltzer or bourbon to test it before adding more. Too much bittering agent will ruin your bitters and tinctures might vary in their exact bitterness. You want it to be just bitter enough that it will add a certain special something to the sweet and sour and bite of your cocktail.

Chris printed some awesome labels, we bought small shipping boxes, and bubble wrap.

Sticker paper is awesome.

Now I’m prepping to send bitters assortments to family and friends all over the country until we run out of bottles.

 

Some places I went for inspiration and knowledge:

http://www.blackbookmag.com/article/embittering-experiences-diy-infusions/9072

http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/10/now-infusing-bittermens-bitters-plus-diy-recipe/

http://embitter.net/2011/03/how-you-can-find-a-friend-in-bitters-grapefruit-bitters/

http://www.chow.com/food-news/54547/bringing-bitters-back/2/

 

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