(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.
I steeped the following in jars of 100 proof vodka:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some places I went for inspiration and knowledge: